November 6, 2019

Personality Profiles Differ Between Patients with Epileptic Seizures and Patients with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures

entry image


  • Epilepsy is associated with lower openness compared to psychogenic seizures.
  • Openness in patients with epilepsy is also lower than the general population.
  • These effects are statistically meaningful and robust.
  • The application to screening for psychogenic seizures, however, is limited.


Purpose: Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) and epileptic seizures (ES) are often difficult to differentiate, leading to incorrect or delayed diagnosis. The aim of the study was to determine whether patients of these two diagnostic groups possess different personality profiles, and whether they could be used to efficiently screen for PNES in clinical settings.

Methods: Collection of data was conducted on 305 patients who completed the NEO-Five Factor Inventory questionnaire during a Video EEG Monitoring admission to the Royal Melbourne Hospital between 2002–2017. Personality differences were investigated using Bayesian linear mixed effects models, with receiver operating characteristic curve analysis computed to evaluate diagnostic accuracy.

Results: The ‘openness to experience’ domain (BF10 = 21.55, d = -0.43 [95% CI -0.71, -0.17]) and the ‘aesthetic interest’ facet (B10 = 7.98, d = -0.39 [95% CI -0.66, -0.12]) were the only personality factors demonstrating strong evidence for a group difference, with patients with PNES having higher scores compared to the ES group. ES patients had lower scores on these measures compared to the normal population, while PNES patients did not. Both openness to experience and aesthetic interest showed poor sensitivities (53%, 46% respectively) and specificities (69%, 46% respectively) for classifying PNES and ES patients.

Conclusion: While openness and aesthetic interests differ greatly between PNES and ES groups, low sensitivity and specificity suggests their use is limited in a clinical setting. Nevertheless, these findings open up new avenues of research using modern personality models to further understand patients with epilepsy and related presentations.

Related News