Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. I bet you’ve never heard of that before. Otherwise known as PNES, psychogenic nonepileptic seizures is a condition often misdiagnosed as epilepsy when in fact it’s psychological in nature and is believed to be caused by unprocessed childhood trauma expressing itself in a person’s body.
In this recent Cleveland post, Brie Zeltner interviews Vania Mahon who has been suffering from PNES since 2009 about her use of meditation rather than medication to treat her condition. She is using the meditation practice to help her to deal with her past.
“These seizures are mimicking what you are feeling — your body is expressing it,” she says. “As a child somewhere you suppressed a trauma, and now that your life is finally in order and you feel good about yourself, your body is telling you to look back inside — there’s still something that you have to deal with.”
Syed says many PNES patients have a hard time with the diagnosis because they expect something physical, not psychological, is wrong. Mahon didn’t have that problem, fortunately. She was happy to try a drug-free way of treating her PNES.
For six months, she met weekly with Syed for 15-minute meditation sessions, during which she learned to relax and focus on one thing at a time. First, she learned to breathe, then to slowly focus on one problem from her past.
“Like a computer with a recycle bin, I can look at the problem I’m having and then click it away,” she says. “Then on to the next one.”
Read more from Zeltner and Mahon on using meditation to treat PNES here.