A seizure describes the abnormal brain dysfunction that results when the normal electrical impulses in the brain become disrupted. Although not all seizures occur due to a specific cause, conditions that irritate the brain, including certain medications, traumatic injuries, infections and fever, can result in a seizure. Stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system in the body, which triggers the body to release increased levels of hormones that act throughout the body, including in the brain. Stress can cause a number of disorders and increases the likelihood of a seizure occurring, especially in patients with seizure disorder, according to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library.
Acute Stress Disorder
Acute stress disorder describes one type of anxiety disorder that usually occurs within a month following a traumatic event, according to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. Acute stress disorder causes intense fear or horror with feelings of helplessness. These feelings, and the associated increase in the stress hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin, result in a sense of numbing, an absence of emotions and a decrease in awareness.
Similar to acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder describes an anxiety disorder that occurs in response to a traumatic event. Doctors do not diagnose the condition as post-traumatic stress disorder, however, until the person has experienced symptoms for at least one month, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when the body’s normal stress response continues even after the stressful situation has resolved. Symptoms include reliving the event through flashbacks, nightmares or bad thoughts, numbness, depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
Both acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder occur due an increased level of stress hormones, such as adrenalin and noradrenalin. These hormones bind to receptors throughout the body, including in the brain. The increase in hormones in the brain and continued feelings of anxiety can lead to a non-epileptic seizure. Although non-epileptic seizures appear the same as a seizure, the brain fails to exhibit the brain activity characteristic of a seizure, according to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Doctors diagnose seizure disorder, also known as epilepsy, in patients who experience two or more unprovoked seizures, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. The seizures characteristic of seizure disorder usually occur without any apparent cause, as described by Merck. Symptoms depend upon the area of the brain affected by the seizure, but include a loss or change of consciousness, convulsions, the inability to speak, visual hallucinations, and sensory impairments. Although stress does not directly disrupt the electrical impulses in the brain, it does create irritation in the brain that can contribute to the onset of a seizure.