A complex partial seizure is a type of seizure that arises in one lobe of the brain, rather than the whole brain. The seizure affects people’s awareness and may cause them to lose consciousness.

Complex partial seizures are now more commonly referred to as focal onset impaired awareness seizures or focal impaired awareness seizures.

Anybody can have a complex partial seizure, although people who have experienced head injuries, strokes, or tumors in the brain are more at risk.


Fast facts on complex partial seizures:

  • This form of seizure is the most common type experienced by people with epilepsy.
  • The symptoms are diverse and can vary from one seizure to another.
  • Seizure first aid focuses on keeping the person safe and comfortable.



Common symptoms of complex partial seizures include:


  • The symptoms of a complex partial seizure can differ from one seizure to another.
  • Seizures are often preceded by an aura, known as a simple partial seizure.
  • Auras usually last just a few seconds.
  • According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an aura is a warning sign. These signs take on different forms.
  • For example, some people may have a feeling of fear, while others may get a strange sensation in their bodies, an unusual taste in their mouth, or hear a particular sound.

Impaired consciousness

People who have a complex partial seizure are not usually aware of their surroundings while it happens.

They will not respond to others or their environment, and they do not typically remember what occurs during the episode. They may stare blankly into space, appear to be daydreaming, or wake from sleep suddenly.

In some cases, the person will “freeze,” which is called a focal impaired awareness behavior arrest seizure.



In addition to an aura and impaired consciousness, many people also carry out repetitive movements, called automatisms. Examples of automatisms include:


  • crying
  • laughing
  • moaning
  • repetitive speech
  • screaming


  • chewing
  • lip smacking
  • swallowing


  • fumbling
  • head rolling
  • patting
  • picking at things
  • removing clothing
  • walking
  • coordinated movements, such as cycling of the legs or a swimming motion

Symptoms usually last from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.


Complex partial seizures that begin in the frontal lobe tend to be shorter than seizures originating in the temporal lobe.

After the seizure, the person will be fatigued, disoriented, and confused. Although these after-effects only last for approximately 15 minutes, many people are unable to function normally for several hours.

Source: Article By J. Leonard for Medical News Today