Sexual abuse and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures

  • Ali A. Asadi-PooyaEmail author
  • Zahra Bahrami
Original Article



We investigated the frequency of reported sexual abuse in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) in a Middle-Eastern culture (Iran) and tried to characterize the association between a history of sexual abuse and the clinical characteristics of PNES in these patients.


In this retrospective database study, patients with PNES, who were investigated at Shiraz Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, from 2008 until 2018, were studied. Patients were categorized into two groups: (1) those with a history of sexual abuse and (2) those without such a history.


A total of 314 patients were studied. Twenty-six patients (8.3%) had a history of sexual abuse, while 288 patients (91.7%) denied having such an experience. Sex ratio (OR: 3.53; 95% CI: 1.14–10.89; p = 0.02) and a history of child abuse (OR: 4.85; 95% CI: 1.82–12.96; p = 0.002) were significantly associated with a history of sexual abuse.


Some people with a history of sexual abuse are at risk of developing PNES later in their lives. While social, cultural, and even genetic predisposition may be interacting for such an association to come to play, there is no concrete direct evidence to clarify this link yet. This should be investigated in future international cross-cultural studies and also highlights the need for planning genetic studies in patients with PNES.


Psychogenic PNES Seizure Sex Abuse 



This study was in part supported by the National Institute for Medical Research Development Grant (No. 971003). We also appreciate the Neuroscience Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences for supporting this study.

Authors’ contributions

Both authors were involved in the conception, design, review process, and preparing the manuscript. Both have approved this final version and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Declaration of funding

This study was in part supported by the National Institute for Medical Research Development Grant (No. 971003). We also appreciate the Neuroscience Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences for supporting this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Ali A. Asadi-Pooya, M.D.: Honoraria from Cobel Daruo; Royalty: Oxford University Press (Book publication). Zahra Bahrami, M.D.: none.


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Copyright information

© Fondazione Società Italiana di Neurologia 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuroscience Research Center, Shiraz Medical SchoolShiraz University of Medical SciencesShirazIran
  2. 2.Jefferson Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Department of NeurologyThomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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