7 Myths About Seizures

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Linda Wasmer Andrews on March 3, 2021
  • man-with-hands-on-head
    Don't fall for these falsehoods.
    If you're unfamiliar with seizures, they can seem quite mysterious. But a seizure is just an abnormal burst of electrical activity in your brain that temporarily affects your awareness, sensations, thoughts or actions. You may have heard some misinformation and myths about seizures. Now is the time to learn the truth.
  • hands of man with dupuytren contracture
    Myth: All seizures involve convulsions.
    There are many kinds of seizures. Some cause fainting and convulsions—dramatic episodes in which the body first becomes rigid and then jerks uncontrollably. But some only cause brief spells of blinking rapidly and staring into space. Others cause strange sensations (like tingling) or odd behaviors (like repeated lip smacking).
  • tired male backpacker with dehydration and heat exhaustion
    Myth: Seizures always mean epilepsy.
    Epilepsy involves having seizures that occur repeatedly. Sometimes seizures happen just once or twice and then never return again. Such seizures may result from a new concussion, a high fever, low blood sugar, or withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, to name a few examples. If the seizures don't recur, they aren't considered epilepsy.
  • A teenager lies on a sofa while using a video game controller.
    Myth: Videogames often trigger seizures.
    Videogames with rapidly flashing lights or alternating color patterns can sometimes trigger seizures, but this is rare. Only 3% of people with epilepsy react to visual triggers. Even in this group, seizures may occur only under very specific circumstances—for example, if light of a certain brightness flashes at a particular speed.
  • woman in sunshine experiencing headache
    Myth: Seizures aways give fair warning.
    Warning signs of a seizure are called auras. These occur while you're still aware of what is happening. The aura may take many forms—for example, feeling panicky, getting dizzy, or smelling odors that aren't there. But not everyone experiences auras. For some, the first sign of a seizure is losing awareness or passing out.
  • Middle aged woman holding throat with both hands in pain
    Myth: You'll swallow your tongue.
    No matter what you've heard, it's impossible to swallow your tongue during a seizure. Some people also mistakenly believe that, when you're having a seizure, they should force something into your mouth. In reality, this could make you break a tooth, cut your gums, or even fracture your jaw.
  • woman-comforting-friend
    Myth: Being restrained stops a seizure.
    Forget what you've seen in movies: Bystanders shouldn't try to hold you down while you're having a seizure. Being physically restrained won't halt the seizure, and you might fight back in a state of confusion. Letting you move or walk around is just fine, so long as you're in safe surroundings.
  • Couple consulting with doctor holding digital tablet
    Myth: Epilepsy treatments rarely work.
    With the right medication at the right dose, about two-thirds of people with epilepsy can completely control their seizures. For the remaining one-third, other treatments are sometimes added to the medication to improve the results. Treatment options may include brain surgery, nerve stimulation with an implanted electrical device, or a special diet.
7 Myths About Seizures

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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 3
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.