Recovering from a seizure

Our Helpline & Information Officer, Stuart Macgee, looks at some of the more common and lesser-known experiences after a seizure.

It’s not a case of “seizure over, get up and go”. You actually need to recover from a seizure, and it’s not instant.

Every person’s recovery from a seizure is different and will also depend on the type of seizure experienced.

While it’s true that many people come round from a seizure fairly quickly and become aware of their surroundings, full recovery can take some time.

Even if the person has not sustained an injury, it can take several hours, sometimes several days, before a person feels back to normal again.


Post-ical phase

The medical terms for the time immediately after a seizure is called the post-ictal phase.

Common symptoms during the post-ictal phase include confusion, tiredness, headaches, slurred speech, feeling sick, or mood changes. People often want to sleep or be in a quiet place.

Speaking gently to a person after a seizure and explaining what has happened while they are still confused will provide reassurance and can help reorientate the person.

Periods of confusion can last from a few minutes up to an hour.

The person may be able to talk and answer questions during this period, but they might not remember this.

They might also be able to perform tasks such as undressing and going to bed but will not necessarily remember doing so.

It can take some people several days before they feel back to normal again. This is often misunderstood by employers, and even friends and family, who often assume that once the seizure is over, it’s back to business.


Post-ictal psychosis

Post-ictal psychosis is rare and only happens to a small number of people whose epilepsy is not controlled by medication.

It is more common in those who experience clusters of tonic-clonic seizures. Post-ictal psychosis can appear within a few days, and up to a week, after seemingly having recovered from a seizure.

Psychosis is a medical term used when someone loses touch with reality.

There is an initial recovery period after a seizure (the lucid phase) where the person seems to be recovering well.

After the recovery period the person may start to experience delusions, hallucinations or unusual behaviour.

These are often paranoid or fearful. This is called post-ictal psychosis. This can last days or even weeks.

Always seek immediate medical advice if this applies to you or someone you care for.


Todd’s paresis or post-ictal paralysis

Very occasionally people can experience a period of paralysis after a seizure. This can be a weakness, loss of movement and/or numbness.

It usually occurs, on one side of the body and can last from a few minutes to a temporary inability to hear, see or speak.

The symptoms of Todd’s paresis can be very similar to that of a stroke. Always seek urgent medical advice if you experience any of these symptoms to rule out a stroke.

If you have any concerns about symptoms after a seizure, contact your GP, epilepsy specialist nurse or consultant for medical advice, or phone NHS24 on 111 out of hours.

Our after a seizure factsheet summarises all the points above and provides some more information, have a look here.