Understanding the Common Stages of a Seizure

While there are many different types of seizures and many different causes for them, they all often follow the same pattern from person to person. They are the result of chemical changes in the body that impact how your nerve cells interact, leading to activity in your brain that can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. And though many people who are prone to seizures can be aware of the early signs that one may be on the way, far fewer people are aware of the three stages of a seizure. Knowing and recognizing them can certainly be a powerful way to feel prepared when one occurs.


As mentioned, many people are familiar with the early symptoms indicating a seizure is on the way. This is known as prodrome, which can start to occur minutes, hours, and for some, days leading up to a seizure. This can range from anxiety to problems sleeping, changes in mood, and recurring physical sensations that occur at the onset.


Aura is the phase that occurs right before a seizure starts. A headache, nausea, panic, dizziness, and many more symptoms can either give way to the next two phases of a seizure or be the end of the episode altogether. When this happens it’s known as a partial seizure. Meanwhile, for some, aura doesn’t occur at all. Instead, these seizures start in the second or “middle” phase.


The middle or ictal phase is what most of us think of when we imagine seizures. This is the time when intense electrical changes happen in the brain. Loss of muscle control, trouble speaking, body convulsions, trouble breathing, a racing heart, twitching, trouble hearing, hallucinations, loss of consciousness, and memory lapses are all common signs of the middle phase of a seizure. While the stage 1/aura phase is made up of mostly symptoms that only the affected individual will notice, ictal phase symptoms can be noticed by others who can potentially step in to help.

And finally, there’s…


Stage three of a seizure is the ending/postical phase. Now your brain is working to get your nerve cells to stop misfiring and gain normal control and functions. Your body will now begin to relax but you will likely be left with the after effects of a seizure. There’s no set time that this phase can or will last but is typically dependent on the type of seizure you’ve had as well as which parts of your brain were involved and affected. You may feel normal immediately and you may have a slow, steady climb back to normalcy that lasts for hours. It’s common at this point to feel fatigue, have a headache, lose bladder or bowel control, be thirsty, be left with an upset stomach, feel weak, or have sore muscles at this time. A feeling of fear and anxiety is also normal, especially for those people unfamiliar with what they’ve just experienced. You can also even lose consciousness once again in the postictal phase, a symptom of stage two as well, but still a symptom that can have an effect on some seizure victims.

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