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Different types of Seizures

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

In this post we discuss the different types types of seizures, how they occur, the symptoms experienced AND the medical definitions... as it can be a maze for people to navigate.

There are not just one but many different "types" of seizures and not only do they all have varying symptoms? Many of the symptoms may be difficult to recognise OR than can be similar symptoms from varying types of seizures... making the process of diagnosing "exact" types of Epilepsy / related seizures a patient has very complex. We hope that this breakdown of some of the most common types of seizures plus related symptoms can help people understand these a little better.

For example AEDs / Epilepsy medications do not cure epilepsy or treat the reason why epilepsy has started. They are taken to try and stop the symptoms of epilepsy – the seizures. They aim to stop seizures from happening. They do not stop a seizure once it has started. They are prophylactic (preventative) and are usually taken one to four times a day depending on regime. (read the full story on Medications and how they work at:)

Here are some of the most common types of seizures...


Tonic-clonic seizures can be one of the most frightening seizures to observe. A generalised tonic-clonic seizure, previously called a grand mal seizure, is a disturbance in the functioning of both sides of your brain. This disturbance is caused by electrical signals spreading through the brain inappropriately. Often this will result in signals being sent to your muscles, nerves, or glands.

The spread of these signals in your brain can make you lose consciousness and have severe muscle contractions. There are three parts to a tonic-clonic seizure: the "Tonic Phase" (loss of consciousness), the "Clonic Phase" (muscle spasms) and the "Post Ictal Phase" (confusion, delirium or psychosis).

To read the full story on Tonic Clonic seizures - follow the link to the wider story post below:



A focal onset (impaired) seizure begins in one side of the brain and causes some level of loss of awareness of consciousness - compared to Focal onset (aware) seizures where consciousness is kept for the most degree. We used to call these Complex partial seizures. Focal onset seizures (both forms) are the most common type of seizures in adults with epilepsy.

There are several medications that can help prevent focal impaired awareness seizures. Other treatment options include Surgery, Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), Responsive neurostimulation and Dietary therapy. A neurologist can help you learn about the risks, treatments, and outlook for the future. If you think yourself or a loved one may be experiencing any of these symptoms we advise immediate attention by a doctor - preferably a specialist such as a Neurologist.

To read the full story on Focal Impaired / Complex partial seizures - follow the link to the wider story post below:



Focal onset seizures are the most common type of seizure experienced by people with epilepsy. Anybody can get them, but research suggests they may be more likely in people who have had a head injury, brain infection, stroke, or brain tumour. However in many cases the cause is unknown.

When the seizure begins in one side of the brain and the person has no loss of awareness of their surroundings during it, it is called a focal onset aware seizure (previously called a simple partial seizure). When people have focal aware seizures, they are fully awake, alert, and able to recall events during the seizure. Some are "frozen" during the seizure, so they may or may not be able to respond to others during the seizures. Overall, these seizures are brief, usually lasting less than 2 minutes - but people can experience them for much longer in many cases.

To read the full story on Focal Aware / Simple Partial seizures - follow the link to the wider story post below:


An absence seizure causes a short period of “blanking out” or staring into space. Like other kinds of seizures, they are caused by brief abnormal electrical activity in a person’s brain.

There are two types of absence seizures (typical and atypical) that may look a bit different. Both types of seizures are short, and people often don’t notice them at first. They may come and go so quickly that no one notices anything wrong. Or observers may mistake the symptoms for simple daydreaming or not paying attention.

In about 7 out of 10 children with absence seizures, the seizures may go away by age 18. If this happens, medicines may not be needed as an adult. Children who start having absence seizures before age 9 are much more likely to outgrow them than children whose absence seizures start after age 10. Absence seizures are most common in children from age 4 to 14. However, older teens and adults may also have absence seizures. Some people have absence seizures for many months or years before it’s recognised as a problem.


We hope that this information can shine some light on the most common types of seizures plus the symptoms those with Epilepsy go through. There are of course other types such as "Atonic"(drop attacks) and "Myoclonic"(jerk attacks)... and current research shows there could be up 170 "variations" of the kinds of seizures people experience based on where Epilepsy is located in the brain and the types of "neurological flares"people suffer.

But we hope this at least brings some of the most types into light.

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