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What is Petit Mal?

By J. Dellaporta
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The term "petit mal" is used to describe a type of seizure characterized by a brief, abrupt loss of memory and motor control. These episodes are distinguished from longer seizures that often involve convulsions and a prolonged loss of consciousness, sometimes called "grand mal" seizures. Petit mal seizures are most common in children and teenagers. They usually only cause a relatively minor interruption in consciousness, sometimes accompanied by small jerks of the hands or facial muscles. The medical term for this kind of seizure is an absence seizure, referring to the brief absence of consciousness that is the most common symptom.


Symptoms of petit mal seizures can be hard to observe because the seizures themselves are so brief, often lasting only a few seconds. The patient may appear to be simply staring into space. There are a few common outward indications of a complex absence seizure, such as involuntary smacking of the lips or chewing, hand movements, and fluttering eyelids; these activities are called automatism. During this time, the person will have no awareness of his or her surroundings and will be unable to continue conscious activity such as movement or talking.

Although typically brief, these seizures can sometimes include symptoms common to longer seizures, such as slumping or falling over. They happen very suddenly, and can occur at any time. People who have absence seizures may experience them many times a day.


Seizures of any kind are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Brain cells called neurons normally produce small electrical charges that regulate brain and body functions. Illness or injury to the brain can cause this activity to fall out of synchronization, which can result in seizures, although the precise details of why this happens are still not fully understood. Some known causes of epilepsy and epilepsy-like disorders include metabolic disturbances, such as kidney or liver disease; low levels of sodium, magnesium, or calcium; cerebral trauma or illness, such as a brain tumor; birth defects; and heredity.


Since petit mals are so brief and their symptoms are often subtle, they can be difficult to detect and diagnose. Full recovery from a seizure is often very fast; however, the victim will have no memory of the episode or any events that occurred during that time. In children, their first indication may be unexplained learning difficulties or an inability to focus on schoolwork. Children with absence seizures are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed with learning disabilities.

Medical procedures such as blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electroencephalography (EEG) may be used to test for irregular brain activity and other conditions, such as a brain tumor, that could cause seizures. Other tests use flashing lights in the eyes to measure the brain's electrical activity under stimulation. Such measures can often determine the nature of the seizures, which is important for determining what medication can best treat them.


Some people believe they should attempt to restrain a person who is suffering a seizure, to prevent them from injuring themselves or biting or swallowing their tongue. These beliefs are based on outdated misconceptions about epilepsy; such actions can actually result in injuries to either person. The best response is to remove any obvious dangers, such as nearby sharp objects, and wait for the seizure to pass. Meanwhile, offer verbal reassurances to other bystanders and to the patient, who may be disoriented. Absence seizures occur and subside quickly, so there may be no time for any further action.


Absence seizures are most common in children, many of whom outgrow them and are able to discontinue medication as they reach adulthood. Only a small percentage of petit mal sufferers have tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures or progress to lifelong epilepsy. Even then, many are able to live normal lives with regular medication.

Children who are diagnosed with absence seizures should be watched carefully when they are swimming or performing other activities that could be dangerous. A person could drown in he or she loses consciousness while in a bathtub or swimming pool. Patients who have seizures may not be permitted to drive and may need to avoid strenuous physical activity.


Both "petit mal" and "grand mal" are French terms, meaning "little illness" and "great illness" respectively. Medical professionals and others who deal with epilepsy on a regular basis often consider these terms outdated, preferring more precise medical terminology such as "absence seizure." The word epilepsy itself does not describe a single disease, as is commonly believed, but rather a wide range of brain disorders characterized by seizure activity.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon948284 — On Apr 29, 2014

I'm wondering if my 4 year old grandson had an absence seizure the other day? He'd just been to the toilet for a bowel movement. I wiped him and left him to get his pants back on. He came into the room still with his pants around his ankles, stood at the doorway looking really vacant, and peed on the floor. Afterward, he seemed pretty confused and not really aware of what he'd done but apologized to make me happy. Was it a seizure? He's been potty trained well over a year and never done anything like this before.

By anon357697 — On Dec 06, 2013

My daughter was diagnosed at the age of 10. She was "zoning

out" several times a day. We all noticed it, but just assumed she wasn't paying attention or was tired. It wasn't until her fourth grade teacher mentioned "daydreaming". I researched "child daydreaming in class" and sure enough, petit mal and absence seizures came up. All of the symptoms were spot on.

I believe this is often misdiagnosed as a learning disability since many teachers are not taught to look for this and notify parents. I was lucky! Anyway, after a trip to a neurologist, she was quickly diagnosed and put on medication. What a world of difference!

This is something that can be fixed most of the time. If your child has symptoms of daydreaming, fluttering eyes, smacking lips or any of the others, have them see a doctor right away. My daughter is 11 now and in a few months will be starting the process to wean her off the medication. Thank goodness for the teacher who raised my awareness! I wish this subject was brought to teachers' attentions everywhere!

By anon343092 — On Jul 26, 2013

I should also add that triggers for absence seizures are hyperventilation. Have your child blow on a pin wheel repeatedly over and over and you should see an absence episode occur. This was done by the doctor in the office. Among her triggers are lack of sleep and caffeine, stress or deep concentration, like taking a test in school. I also later learned that high amounts of red no5 can cause these. Most absence seizure sufferers are not affected by flashing lights for video games or TV, but your child's doctor will do a photo-sensitivity test to be sure.

By anon343090 — On Jul 26, 2013

There are many types of petit mal seizures. My son was diagnosed with Absence Seizures when he was about eight. We tried many medications. This is pretty common as there usually is no one drug that works for everyone.

Almost a year went by, and we were still changing medications and doses. Absence seizures are usually a brief pause in what you child is doing. For example, they may be singing and suddenly stop or chewing and suddenly stop. Ten seconds later, the staring subsides and with a little confusion, they pick right back up in what they are doing. Unfortunately these episodes are like going to sleep. They can't hear you until they are coming out of the episode. This causes some confusion for the child. My son knew something had just happened. When these episodes increase in frequency it becomes difficult because they lose their place and makes school difficult.

When he was 10, he had a bad fever from an ear infection and a week later had a grand mal seizure. This was one of the scariest times in my life because he didn't regain consciousness for nearly 12 hours after being taken to the hospital by ambulance. When he woke, he had no recollection of the event. But this episode was a blessing, since it landed us with a pediatric neurologist who immediately prescribed Depakote and he has been medically seizure free since and is now 14.

I want to warn parents if your child has these seizures, please make sure that you watch your child closely with fevers because these breakthrough seizures are more likely. My son has started to be weaned for the medication and has in stages been reduced from 1500mg to 250mg and no seizures have returned. Next month he will come off of the med completely as most kids do outgrow absence seizures. We are hoping that this will be the case for him. Several years ago, when the meds weren't controlling the seizures, they became so frequent we thought we would never reach this day. There is hope!

By anon257666 — On Mar 28, 2012

Have finally discovered a name for the absences my 11 year old daughter has. Don't know if I'm relieved or more anxious. She has had them for about a year - but not seen by anyone other than me. Until now, when they were seen in school. I'm so glad I mentioned it to them last year.

We have an appointment with the doctor for tonight, so hopefully we're going in the right direction now. Reading other experiences has helped me understand it all a bit better.

By anon245777 — On Feb 06, 2012

My son has fluttering eyelids, sometimes all day long, sometimes just for a few minutes. Lately, he has been having seizures where he turns blue and when it's over, he clutches his hands together for a long period of time.

Is there a possible way to be able to tell if he is getting ready to go into one of the bigger seizures? I was told to pay attention to the eye fluttering but it doesn't seem to matter.

By anon222058 — On Oct 14, 2011

how do they decide the age factor for petit mal?

By anon212063 — On Sep 05, 2011

I am 26 and have had petit mal and grand mal seizures since I was around 16. I tried to go without medication for the first few years, but found my quality of life much better once I found the right meds (mix of epilim and lamictal). I was worried about the side effects, but to be honest, I barely notice any. I haven't had a grand mal seizure for five years, I have a university degree, I drive every day, have a full time job, a loving partner and overall, a very normal life. Obviously I have to take a few precautions, and I sometimes have petit mal "twitches" when I'm hungover, really stressed or tired which can be embarrassing, but once you explain to people the problem they are very understanding and fine with it.

To all the parents with children who are scared about having their child diagnosed with epilepsy, my mother was terrified too, and rightly so, it is scary watching someone have a seizure (so I'm told), but it is still possible to have a very normal, healthy and positive life, and I am the proof of that.

By anon192430 — On Jul 01, 2011

I am 14 years old and I get them a lot at school. Like the teacher will be talking or my friends will be talking to me and I will just blank out for a few seconds, and not know what is happening.

I fall back on my work and start failing, because when I zone out or doze off, the teacher had mentioned the most important parts. She will get mad at me, and my friends think I am getting bored with them, and I do it about 10-20 times a day.

I am wondering if i have petit mal seizures. I am asking my parents to get me checked out, because it gets really, really embarrassing.

By anon177121 — On May 17, 2011

I have a child in my class who has spells of 'daydreaming' where I will ask him a question and he will have no idea what has been said. Even when talking one on one, he is not always able to recall what has been said. When I have observed him in different situations, he often rolls back his eyes, twitches his mouth and twists his neck. Could this be Petite Mal?

By anon170616 — On Apr 27, 2011

I am currently 27 years old. I was diagnosed with Petit mal seizures around the age of eight and recently started feeling like I was having them again. Back then I suppose I couldn't really articulate what was happening but my mother said she noticed the staring and that's what made her talk to a doctor. I always felt like I was just in deep thought. If I am having a seizure I don't forget what I was thinking about. It just seems like a really intense thought where I'm actually in that thought or like someone said in another post, it's like a dream.

When I realize what's happening I can still remember what I was thinking about so intensely. It's hard to differentiate between super deep thought and a seizure to me. And I thought these deep thought sessions/seizures were normal.

By anon163725 — On Mar 28, 2011

I was diagnosed with petit mal in third grade. I was about seven years old. My mother says I had then at an even younger age but had not understood enough of what was going on to make the connection that there might be a problem.

My seizures changed a lot and I could never tell when one was about to hit, however most of the time I could tell when one had just occurred. Sometimes I would stop in the middle of a sentence and then just pick it right back up while others I would walk away from the speaker not knowing that a conversation was going on.

At the age of 14, two years after I started my period, it was declared a childhood case of seizures and I was cured. I was never put on medication. Even though my most embarrassing moments occurred because of my seizures I was never allowed to use it as an excuse to do badly in school.

I write this to encourage the younger children who do not fully understand what is going on with their bodies or why. As well as for the parents who are stricken with grief and worrying about their child's future. There is hope. Sometimes things change and if they don't then obstacles can be overcome. Keep faith. If not in God, then in yourself. "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are right."

By anon162897 — On Mar 25, 2011

Wow! Was just reading post 49 and it is exactly what I experience from time to time. I've never had one outside, I tend to get them at home or at work, also never had them when visiting friends or family. The other day I had quite an intense one while at work which left me feeling quite nauseous and lethargic afterward. It really is difficult to explain the feeling. I tend to phase out, still totally aware of my surroundings, but everything seems hazy and distant. I normally will have very small bouts of deja vu for a few days later, followed my waves of euphoria, then nothing for months.

By anon162291 — On Mar 23, 2011

I have had petit mal seizures since I was three. I am now 19, and the only way I try and describe to people what happens is it's like going to sleep in a way. You will never know you have been to sleep until you wake back up. In between that, you don't think to yourself when you're sleeping, you can't think or see, and just like, as soon as you wake up in the morning, you can't concentrate straight away, and that's the exact same feeling I have when I come out my seizures.

I mostly have these seizures when I'm tired, hungry, need the toilet, or am worried. Like, when I'm nervous about something, I'll have loads, also in an interview, I can't concentrate and hold a conversation. I always have to try and remember what I was saying, and most of the time I can't. My memory just wipes itself out for them few seconds, and I have to think where I am, and I try and trace back in my mind what I was saying to the certain person. I could be into a really good gossip telling the story and then, silence. I'll stare right though them.

It's totally random. To be honest, I don't think I'll ever grow out of this, and it really upsets me thinking when I move out how am I going to get around such as driving. I will be never allowed to drive and I know loads of people can't drive, but I can't help but think when my mum and dad go, and I'm like 50 years old. how am I going to get to work? How am I meant to do my shopping? Little things like this worry me and I just burst into tears. I don't want to rely on anyone else and I don't want to go through life missing bits out on everything.

I just hope one day a miracle happens, and I don't have to worry about stupid things, and worry about what people think. They must think I'm weird when I just stop talking to them and pause and don't have a clue what I was saying. I've noticed recently as well I'll come out of my seizures and I'll be smacking my lips together and I'll think what am I doing? It's all mad. I feel for people who have this. It could be dangerous at times as well, like when crossing the road etc., but I hope everyone keeps safe.

By anon159039 — On Mar 09, 2011

I am now 23 years old. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5 and was prescribed ritalin and adderall, which I took until I was 14. I was prone to "spells of daydreaming", which is why my mother took me to the doctor. I was given eggs, eggs, cat scans, the whole 9.

The neurologists told my mother and wrote in my medical records that I did not have petit mal seizures. I believe that I was misdiagnosed.I had my first seizure, that I know of, at 21. It happened while I was sleeping and I only know of this because my sister happened to be sleeping next to me that night. I was asked my age, name, the year, etc. and couldn't answer any of them. My head hurt and my teeth ached so bad, as if I had been grinding them. Since that incident I have had three seizures, the most recent of which, I was actually awake for.

I was standing outside of my front door and then awoke on the couch to my husband telling me that I had a seizure. He said that he had told me this three times already, that I had gotten up and started walking around three times, and each time he had told me that I had a seizure. Each time was the first time I heard it but the fourth time that he told me was the only time I remember. Every time that I have had a seizure, I get that deja vu feeling everyone has mentioned.

The last one, where I was awake, my face started getting numb, like when your foot is half asleep. I remember everything up until I had the seizure. I got deja vu, started getting hot and nauseous, my face got tingly, I sat down, luckily, and then I woke up on the couch. My head and teeth were hurting, like they do every time. This whole thing started when I started having strange, disorienting and confusing dreams. Like someone will say something or something will happen that reminds me of the dream and the harder I try to remember the dream, the stronger the symptoms of nausea and confusion. I can still walk and talk, I just feel kind of slow, mentally. I usually stop myself from thinking about it and it goes away but this time it didn't, it became a seizure. I also dream these dreams when I have seizures in my sleep. I remember the dream, but not the seizure. Do anyone else's seizures manifest themselves in this way? Also, does it seem that I've been misdiagnosed?

By anon158777 — On Mar 08, 2011

I'm 24 years old, I've been having petit mal seizures since I was 16. I didn't know that I am still having them. I have grand mal seizures too, so I thought that everything was okay if the grand mal seizures stopped. I stare a lot while I talk. I bite my lip sometimes, and it gets frustrating. I've calmed down a lot since I was 16. I've learned to control the grand mal seizures, but the petit mal I think will always be there. I might try a different medication and see what happens.

By anon158347 — On Mar 06, 2011

I am 28 now and I suffer from absent seizures, and as said in previous comments I have the feeling of deja vu. The same thing happens every time. While it's happening. I know exactly what is going to be said next, and if someone is speaking to me at the time I cannot hear what they are saying, just what's happening in my head.

I have had two grand Mal seizures and since medication haven't had another, although I still have the occasional absent seizure. Before the diagnosis, sometimes I would have petit mal seizures hundreds of times throughout the day. Now it is only very rarely that i have them.

By hemipower — On Feb 11, 2011

My biology teacher, who is 55 years old, has frequent pauses when she is talking where she goes blank and still for 5-10 seconds, and her eyes roll around, before continuing as though nothing happened.

At first, I thought she was just searching for a word, but these pauses have drastically gained in duration and frequency. She had one today where she said, "Yes, you will have to know this for your outline"...approx. 20 second pause (I counted)..."quiz". After talking to my dad (who was familiar with petit mal and said it sounds like she has it), I searched online, and the descriptions sound very similar.

I am probably going to tell the counselor about it on monday. Does it sound like she might have petit mal? I like her, but it is really interfering with her teaching abilities, and i would hate for her to be holding a beaker of hydrochloric acid and drop it due to one of these incidents. Thanks

By anon148848 — On Feb 02, 2011

I'm 36 and have been diagnosed with petit mal seizures. I had them when I was a kid (10ish) but was unable to articulate what was happening so they went undiagnosed. They eventually went away through my teen years but came back in my early twenties and I have had them occasionally ever since. For me it's definitely a deja vu feeling. After reading comments on here I don't see many people mentioning that they can "feel" them. I can. It feels like a very subtle wave of electricity flowing through my body and then it's gone. Not painful in any way thankfully. Just very weird and hard to describe to others.

My life's fine and it's just a bit of an annoyance. I consider myself totally aware when they happen because I actually calm myself by telling myself that it's just a seizure and it will be over in 5-10 seconds. So they don't prevent me from leading a normal life which is good. Tegretol worked for me for the last couple of years, but I'm on this board because it seems to be wearing off and I've had minor versions the last couple of weeks. Hang in there everyone, there are way more horrible things out there that we could be suffering from!

By anon129827 — On Nov 25, 2010

My name is jodie. I'm 16 yrs old and i suffer with petite mal epilepsy. in my childhood i was living with my dad and i was only jumping on my bed and i was also back chatting him and he used to beat me up because of what i was doing. he beat me up so badly he gave me a black eye once and i think it was him that has brought this condition on.

this condition that i have got it affecting my life because i go to college and this condition affects my college work that I'm doing. I'm studying it at the moment. i wish this condition would go away. it makes me upset. I'm not on medication for it but i will be in january because i have a hospital appointment and i really do hope it will make it go away. it's really affecting my life because i go to college by bus and I'm having these seizures on the bus and everyone looks at me but i can't help myself from doing this.

it really brings me down because it has only just come on all of a sudden. i really don't know what has brought it on but i did have a lot of stress in my childhood by my parents and i also have quite a lot stress at college and everyone is concerned about me and what i have got and i am, myself.

no one in my family has got this, only me. i think this condition that i have got is quite dangerous because i could have one of these seizures when crossing the road and a car could hit me one day. I'm a bit worried. i have these seizures when I'm sitting down and i also have them in my sleep. i sometimes have them when I'm standing up. what happens is i just do something standing up and i just stare into one place. i even do it when I'm typing this now and i just can't stop having them. i can't stop myself and i wish i could. if i had medication then maybe that would do something to stop this.

i just wish i could get over this problem and then i would be so happy. i also notice that i get tired quite a lot and i think tiredness brings it on. when i do have enough sleep i still get seizures. i just don't understand it most of the time. thanks.

i feel sorry for other people who are in the same situation as me also.

By XXYGuy — On Nov 17, 2010

I was diagnosed with Petit Mal Epilepsy when I was four years old, when I lived in London, England. I can't blame the New Zealand doctors for that one!

Unfortunately I didn't have petit mal. I had and still do have AD/HD Inattentive Type, the symptoms being almost identical. I suppose you could say I have AD/HD Inattentive Type seizures every day, all day, when I don't take my mind altering medication.

Substantially better stuff than I was given for petit mal, which made me very moody with a nasty turn of temper added.

Oh well, never mind. That's life.

By anon124090 — On Nov 04, 2010

watching too much tv or even on the computer a lot can trigger your fits off. strobe lights are another one to start seizures, or a film that has flashing lights. not eating a good diet as it affects the way your body works and there's loads more.

By anon117265 — On Oct 09, 2010

me too, just like posts no. 34 and 24, I experience such deja vous from time to time. sometimes it feels different - it feels like I'm not here, not aware, hear nothing, see nothing - actually like i don't exist at all. and the moment i realize something's wrong, i feel like 'hey, what had just happened? were was i?'

it started when i was a child. i remember one time i kept walking on the street while it happened.

when i was a teenager it stopped and then came back when i was about 20 while crossing the street. a car almost hit me. i don't take medications - actually i never knew the name of that disorder/whatever until i read this article and responds.

it's more frequent when I'm stressed, and when the situation is unfamiliar to me, or hostile.

And to post 44 - you're patronizing. the fact that you experienced such acute seizures doesn't mean you know better.

By juliamajulia — On Oct 08, 2010

My name is Kate and I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was five years old.

I read some comments and some people say that they just feel confused or they don't even realize that they have a seizure. I don't now how it is possible because in my case I always felt very bad. (the pain was so severe that I remember thinking that it is better to die than to endure this pain any longer).

I was never confused after the seizure passed if didn’t lose my consciousness. I didn't realize what I was doing and this, I believe, was because I was in a lot of pain. It's my head that hurt really bad. When I had a seizure I didn’t move, didn’t blink, just stared into space. I lost my consciousness only twice, (in both cases it was due to a degree of pain which I couldn’t bear).

When I regained my consciousness somebody asked me what my name was and I couldn't tell. I felt like I knew the answer but I couldn't control or hear what I was saying or understand what I was thinking. It also took me some time to understand the question. After these seizures I always felt very tired. Imagine that as soon as you close your eyes you are asleep, that was about it. It was difficult to stay awake.

In both cases when I lost my consciousness I remember an awful pain in my head for a few seconds. I understood what people around were saying, it's just that I didn't have enough strength or I couldn’t say anything, just make some random noises.

These symptoms stopped when I was 14. Now I am 17 and I hope that they will never come back.

If you have similar symptoms or any questions you are welcome to ask.

By anon116104 — On Oct 05, 2010

I am 22 years old. have had petit mal since i was around about 11 years old. have never taken medication for it as my parents and i decided not to go down that road. i have read a few of the posts on here and and it sounds like most people have different forms of epilepsy. what i have is when i am tired, hungover, haven't been eating or anything not in a healthy routine then i space out for between three and five seconds. i have never had grand mal seizure.

i live a very normal life. the only thing i don't do is drive. i know one day i will grow out of it, but until now this is just part of me. if anyone has any questions then please don't hesitate to ask.

By anon110998 — On Sep 14, 2010

My daughter is five and was diagnosed with petit mal last year. I believe she has atypical because she's slow to come out of them and extremely confused. She doesn't remember what happened right before the seizure.

I'm curious about some who are older: do you know you had a petit mal seizure? Do you know you've missed something? What does it feel like? I'm trying to figure out if my daughter knows when she has them or not.

By anon105694 — On Aug 22, 2010

My son is only two, and is just diagnosed with petit mal seizure. I noticed this after he had his first dose of MM R vaccination, and H1N1 +flu shots. i thought since both mm r and h1n1 were linked to seizures, that could have caused my son to have seizures.

I am very worried and scared about him being diagnose with seizures. I'm even very reluctant to give the the medicine that was prescribed for his condition. I find it all your comments to be very helpful, so thank you.

By anon102954 — On Aug 10, 2010

I had been diagnosed with partial epilepsy, where i suddenly lose my consciousness for few seconds and bite my teeth. I took medication for five years and completed it. But my doctor says there are chances of it happening again. Does sitting in front of the computer provoke it? What precautions should be taken to avoid chances of the attack happening again?

By pip84 — On Jul 13, 2010

Do you think I have Petit Mal? I'm a 26 year old female and I've symptoms since I was about 14. I usually have it most days, although usually just in the morning and it's gone by about lunch time. Being tired seems to bring it on too.

I space out when talking to people. I will zone out for a few seconds and my eyelids will droop. When I come out of it I need to remind myself what I was talking about. It's extremely embarrassing with people I have just met! I thought maybe it was just 'brain fog' but the symptom of the spacing out and eye drooping is the major issue. If I'm experiencing it really bad I space out more and have to use all my brain power to concentrate and function.

Some days it can be with me all day. I find my routine, exercise, diet and sleep contribute greatly to how often or severe I get it. I also find that if I have a big night out drinking, that the next day I am a complete mess - I can hardly string sentences together and pretty much can't carry on a conversation or drive.

I was tested for epilepsy when I was young because I zoned out but medication made me feel extremely uncomfortable so I stopped. I have kept alcohol to rare occasions and exercise most days.

I seem to get it worse when I am on holidays as I eat more bad food and don't get enough sleep or exercise. Also having too much sleep can cause it.

By anon89241 — On Jun 09, 2010

i was diagnosed with petit mal a year ago and i am 11. my mum now wants to refer me to a neurologist clinic and she wants me to have an MRI scan and i am really scared about it even though we haven't even been referred to the clinic yet! are the MRI scans scary?

By anon87165 — On May 28, 2010

My sister was diagnosed with petite mals when she was in second grade. They were happening frequently; she would just stare off in mid thought, maybe nodding her head slightly.

When she was 11 or 12 years old she had her first grand mal. It lasted about two minutes. she never had one again until this January. So it's been five years. After the one in january she was averaging one a week. We got her back on the name brand depakote and now she is having them once every two weeks. Do others graduate from petite to grand mal? We were told she would grow out of this. She is 16 now.

By anon85406 — On May 20, 2010

I'm now 17, was diagnosed with petit mal seizures when I was nine months old. I was taking ACH shots twice a day up to 2 1/2 years old. They stopped until I reached the age of 12 1/2 years and they started back up again. I am currently taking my meds (Lamictal)faithfully.

To the question #25, yes babies have them that young if noticed. there is no telling how long I was having them before my mom took me to see a doctor.

By anon84246 — On May 14, 2010

I'm 13 and I've found i normally go into a seizure when I get too warm. my mum was talking to me about it, and she said the best thing for me is to be in shorts, no shirt etc. and with a window open. She would normally have to talk to me to calm me down. Although, you state that you can't normally remember? I can. Not all, but a couple.

By anon83780 — On May 12, 2010

i believe I have petite mal seizures. if you have a look at post number 24, that is exactly what happens to me but for a long period of time. but I'm a boy and I'm 15.

By anon77884 — On Apr 15, 2010

I told my doctor about my symptoms, and she said I could possibly have petit mal. Sometimes every couple of months, I'll randomly get flashes of images in my head (that I've never seen before) while still conscious,and I feel tingly. I don't recall ever fluttering my hands/eyes.

Afterwards, it takes a couple of minutes to focus on what I was saying or doing at the time it occurred.

Can anyone help me figure out if it is petit mal or not?

By anon69990 — On Mar 11, 2010

i had epilepsy petit mal from age of seven to 13. i was having between 60 and 100 of these "out in space" experiences a day. it made me quite tired and fall behind in class because there were so many.

i also bruised quite a lot for an unknown reason and had to have a ct scan to see if it was due to the epilepsy. this came back positive as i was having so many a day. i did eventually grow out of these but have been told to stay away from uv lights and concentrating too hard on the tv or computer as these may come back at anytime, as they don't leave the body. They just lie dormant like a volcano.

By anon62025 — On Jan 24, 2010

My father in law who is 80 years old has been suffering with these Petit Mals for about five years. His doctors could not figure out what was wrong with him.

He had a couple of grand mals that ended him in the hospital for observation and then was released. He was placed on Keppra 1000 mg once a day, but still continues to get them not infrequently (about once a week).

His whole family called them T.I.A's but I knew they were not that, then I took him to his doctor's and he had one. I asked the doctor what it was, and he told me. I'm so glad to know what it is now. But I hear that this is more common in children, versus adults. Will he have these for the rest of his life?

By anon58046 — On Dec 29, 2009

My daughter, now nine years old has been diagnosed with Petit mal for seven years. She was having absences every 20 seconds and was put on epilim three times per day.

She had learning difficulties, growth problems, and social problems. i eventually persuaded her neurologist to let me stop her medication and try alternative methods. Now one year on she is medication free, her school has improved massively, she is definitely more sociable and a much happier child.

The alternative therapy was Reflexology. The Reflexologist worked on the VNS (Vagus nerve) in her chest and has managed to control her absences.

By KeitKCT17 — On Nov 23, 2009

My girlfriend, or should I say, lady friend, stares into space and her eyelids flutter rapidly on a regular basis when we talk or she is in conversation with other people.

Having studied NLP and where we go with our eyes while in conversation (as if picking sections of our brain - Past -present - future.etc) I also thought about petit mals.

She is not aware of this staring or rapid blinking and I've yet to ask if she goes blank momentarily (I want to be gentle about this) As maybe it's not been picked up before.

Any suggestions of how I approach this? Or do I just maybe leave it alone?

She can take some time before she replies to a question -- as if she's thinking or deep in thought.

By anon53452 — On Nov 21, 2009

Hello, my name is Jennifer, I am 34 and have had absence (petit-mal) epilepsy since the age of three. I grew out of it when I was nine, and stress in my life brought it back to my when I was 11.

I now have "abnormally abnormal" EEGs, according to my neurologist, although she is reluctant to tell me exactly how many seizures I am suffering in a day. She does tell me however that she and a few colleagues are amazed that I am even able to function on a day-to-day basis. My doctor has now suggested VNS therapy, a surgical implant like a pacemaker, to help electrical impulses in my brain. Has anyone else been given this option, and if so, what has been their experiences? I have just been unable to find much information regarding petit-mal seizures and the VNS therapy.

By anon51874 — On Nov 09, 2009

My son is 7 1/2 months old and three days ago i noticed that he would all of a sudden "disappear" on me. One minute he is happy and playing. The next, his head drops to the side, his eyes flutter and he has a blank look on his face like he is really thinking hard about something. Then, within seconds, he comes good, not even concerned about what just happened. Since i noticed this happening i am really keeping an eye on hi. yesterday he did this at least ten times. Today it is four so far. My doctor had given us a referral to get an eeg. What can i do to help him? Are there any other cases of babies this young having petit mals?

By anon47686 — On Oct 06, 2009

I have been having petit mal seizures since I was a little girl. It took a long time to get the diagnosis as epilepsy because when I have a seizure it's a crazy feeling of deja vu, like everything that is happening around me I dreamt the night before and I know what is going to happen right before it happens. It is really scary and I will generally say something completely off beat and people look at me like I am crazy! I can keep full control of myself but I feel like I have stepped into a different dimension! And I continue to feel that way for weeks afterwards, like I'm just going through the motions of my life, but it's not really mine. I will lose all my short term memory for the time period surrounding the episode. I went off my tegretol when I was pregnant with my son and have not taken it since without any problems. I hopefully just outgrew it and pray it does not return. My father had undiagnosed epilepsy and had horrible seizures due to his drinking problem.

By anon47187 — On Oct 02, 2009

My son has petit mal seizures. He was diagnosed at the age of three which i had to convince his doctor that he was having some sort of seizures. my then 15 year old daughter came to me complaining about him rolling his eyes at her and it was making her mad so when i saw him do it a few minutes later, i immediately knew something was wrong. Perhaps when babies roll their eyes back and we say "the angels are talking to them" maybe they're having seizures! Well my son is now 14 and is on Zarontin and has been for 6 years. The tegretol and one that was sprinkles and they made his learning a disability and the Doctor tried telling me he was ADD. The medication is ADD. my son is A/B Honor Roll and plays football and baseball, never suspended from school, never in a fight. Very nice kid always looking out for others, very godly. talkative but what child isn't? the seizures have gone from 7-10 seconds long all throughout the day to 1-3 seconds only during his sleep. I pray he grows out of them soon. He takes the Zarontin 2x a day 500 mg. I hope this helps someone and parents must really pay attention to their children early on. These seizures didn't just start in most kids at 14/21/18 and 10. come on parents, this was going on and we didn't question it. Well let me tell you, one day my son was diagnosed with seizures and the next day my 17 year old son was diagnosed with testicular cancer. go figure. God is good but the was cleared in 6 months

By evi — On Aug 30, 2009

I had my first petit mal seizure when i was about 11 years old, some days before my first period came. I was experiencing a loss of consciousness and staring for some seconds but i could always recall what had happened after the seizure had come to an end. My neurologist at that time was supporting that my seizures would stop in a couple of years and i was subscribed tegretol 400. My daily seizures soon came to an end but unfortunately at the age of 14 nocturnal episodes started (usually during my deep sleep) accompanied most of the times by loss of urine. Nowadays i am 29 years of age and the nocturnal urination is a great problem for me. I would like to know about the reasons of the nocturnal loss of urine and the case of its total cure. Thank you

By anon40267 — On Aug 07, 2009

My 5 year old daughter has had petit mal seizures since she was born. Before I knew what they were, I was very scared and didn't know what to do. She would be doing something and right in the middle of whatever it was, she was just stop...and daze out. Sometimes her eyes would flutter back. But in seconds, she was back to normal and had no recollection of what happened.

One day, I asked my mom about it and she told me that I did the same thing but I grew out of it! Also, that she did the same thing too when she was little.

Later, I found out that Petit Mal can be hereditary.

I am just hoping she grows out of it sooner than later.

By anon39044 — On Jul 29, 2009

I am a 54 year old white female. I have had numerous head and brain truama since age 6 and took dialatin for over a year after another serious head injury at 11. I have had numerous others and spent 5 months hospitalized at age 33 for my pregnancy with every known conceivable complication. I am RH negative. My son has had numerous head injuries and we both barely survived at his birth from blood loss (hemhorraging). I had severe post partum depression and psychosis and was later diagnosed as bi-polar. I have had four major seizures as an adult and my son was diagnosed as ADD at age 10 or eleven. I still have petit mal moments (staring). Could we be mis-diagnosed and both be eptileptic. I have had and do have several family members with epilepsy and I have taken tegretol also.

By anon38946 — On Jul 29, 2009

I am a 39 year old woman who tried to over dose on benadryl a year and a month ago. I just had my first seizure and was wondering if my overdose is the cause of my seizure? I got really dizzy and knew I was getting ready to pass out because I started seeing black and then I don't remember anything after that. My mother said I hit the floor hard and started turning blue around the mouth and foaming at the mouth. I hit the back of my head really hard and my tailbone. The MRI and blood work all came back negative. Is this a petit mal seizure and will I most likely continue to have them from now on?

By anon38513 — On Jul 26, 2009

my first petite mal was at two. i'm now 39 and i get them every five years.

By anon36114 — On Jul 09, 2009

hi my girl is 18 and she has had 3 petit seizures and they don't know whats causing them. she has to go in the hospatial in rochester for 7 to 10 days. they are going to take her off her meds and just watch her. she is kind of scared because she thinks they will find something and we said if they do they will take care of it.

By anon34561 — On Jun 24, 2009

i first noticed my symptoms like a year ago when i was 14 or 13 and i got up and went to go to the toilet and i just fell to the floor on my hands and knees, shaking and i couldn't hear or see anything and i thought i was dead. i was like that for a few seconds.

at school recently i've been spacing out and not hearing or seeing anything and i get fluttering in my eyes and hands. i'm getting checked out at the hospital.

By NewHere — On May 29, 2009

My 14 year old son has just been diagnosed with petite mal, and has been prescribed Epilim 500, and after reading the list of possible side effects, I'm not sure if I want him to take the medication, or seek a safe (safer) alternative.

I have known my son went absent for many years, but as he is rather bright, I always assumed he had a train of thought and was just thinking intently about a problem he wanted to solve or overcome. It's only recently he has admitted to me he went blank and has no idea where he goes, whereas when he was younger, because he didn't realize himself, he was happy to just let me believe he had just had a thought.

Whenever my son comes out of it he is always aware he has just gone blank, and he gets so apologetic for it, especially when he is pouring a glass of drink and more ends up on the floor than the glass can possibly hold. I keep trying to assure him that there is absolutely no reason to apologize for what happens, and regardless of what may ensue during his blank I remain calm and never get annoyed with him.

As I'm only new to this situation (the cause,not the condition), I must say I was very impressed to find this site and comforted to read about the situations of others, and I now know I'm not alone with this.

I wish the best for all those who are afflicted with this problem.


By anon32874 — On May 28, 2009

I was diagnosed petite mal at the age of 8. My parents noticed my first seizure when I was 7. I was under a medical supervision (twice a year) until the age of 16 (without any seizures). Being properly treated I did not experienc any more seizures until the age of 22 (without any medications between 16 and 22).

At the age of 21 I was living in a very stressful environment. Since then (age of 22) I am again using different medications (carbamazepine). Seizures did not disappear with it, but since then the seizures (3–5 seconds long) appear only after the period in which I have been subjected to stressful conditions – only then! Good thing concerning such a short seizures is that I can always regain consciousness very fast, and from the people in my environment it is usually considered as a sudden fall of the blood pressure or a headache.

About a year ago I was living in an extremely stressful environment. Since then my condition has worsened. The duration of the seizures is longer and they do not appear as it was previously described. Now I am 38.

Due to the seizures I do not drive a car and I do not drink alcohol. Everything else in my life is as it should be.

I am professor at university and a big fighter. I believe that soon the seizures will be controllable again.

By anon26007 — On Feb 06, 2009

i just found out today that i have petit mal. in first grade i remember my teacher was reading a book, and i just went into a stare, and then i fainted. it only lasted about 30 seconds.

about 5 years later it happened again.

i'm 15 now. when i have these minor seizures everything just gets black and i have no clue about my surroundings and when it stops its like nothing ever happened.

By anon22813 — On Dec 10, 2008

hi im 19 years old and i was diagnosed petit mal when i was 7, all that happened was that i suddenly lost my consciousness for a couple of minutes and that's it i had to take medications for 2 years and then everything was fixed. unfortunately about 2 or 3 years ago everything came back but worst know i get convulsions when i go to sleep, i wet the bed y say things with no sense its so humiliating, i started taking the same pills that i took when i was little but things seem only to get worst this past few days i've been having this extreme convulsions when im awake and the most painful one was at my aunt's house at A PARTY i went to her room to watch tv with my little cousin and the next thing i know im almost at my house in a car!! everyone told me that suddenly i went to the living room were everyone was started acting like a crazy person saying stupid stuff and then moving my hands everywhere i was having a convulsion if it werent for my mom i would've fell and broken my head off. everyone was so freakin scared she was the only one who knew what to do... i want to know is this ever stop? am i going to have a normal life when people don't have to treat me like a child or is it just going to get worst?

By anon21854 — On Nov 23, 2008

I had a seizure when I was 10 years old (my first seizure). I did not know what it was at the moment, I felt that I was shaking and I could not stop. I was in the car while my parents were driving and my cousin was sleeping next to me. I just grabbed a big ball that was next to me and I try to fall sleep. Then when I woke up and I was in the hospital with fever. I started taking medication depakote. I never knew what type of seizure or epilepsy I have. The doctors just said I had epilepsy. I continue having seizures, but I could know when they were coming sometimes. And usually my eyes will roll back involuntarily when I was nervous (mostly) or whenever. A seizure that I still remember happened when I was probably 11 or 12. My arm started shaking and I could not control it, I try to stop it with my other hand, my head also started shaking with to one side (right), my mom stop my arm with her hand and she hug me and I felt better, but then I could not breath and my parents put me in the floor or I fell and I was still shaking, I felt that I almost die; it was horrible. Until last week I was proud of not having seizures (for almost 9 years. I am taking Kepra now, the doctor changed it because he said it was but for my bones. However, last week I had a seizure at college in the computer lab, I did not even notice and I did not feel it coming. I was surprised that a lot of people was around me and I was seating in another seat. They said I fell of the chair while I was having a seizure; I do not know how long it was. I think I had that seizure because I used to take my pills at any time in the morning or at night and sometimes I forgot to take them and I was a little stressed too with homework and exams. I am 22 now and I am from Ecuador.

By anon20387 — On Oct 30, 2008

I have had what seems to be petite mal seizures ever since I was a baby (I am now 25). The last time I had one was just barely over 2 years ago, but I always wonder when the next one will be.

Over the course of my life, I've had around 10 or more. One of the ones that really stands out in my mind is when I was 8 months pregnant with my son. (he is now 2). I woke up laying in bed and I was shaking and I remember trying to talk to my husband but I couldn't get words to come out of my mouth. I don't know if that was a petite mal or grand mal or what but it was pretty freaky to me at the time. Doctors say I may have a type of arrhythmia. Soon as I can I want to get it checked out.

By anon15766 — On Jul 21, 2008

Anon2773, I experience/experienced what your daughter did. I took epilim for a couple of years then at the age of 13 it cleared up and i was almost 100% better. I am 15 now and about half a year ago the petit mal came back. I've always called them 'dazes'! anyway, I'm doing exams fairly soon and really hope that either the episodes go away or I'll have to go back on medication.

ANON494, did you ever take medication? How often do they occur, isn't it hard to cope?

By anon12095 — On Apr 30, 2008

i have petit mal, i may have had it for several years but i have never noticed it before my parents had no idea because it was so sudden, my french teacher saw me have it when i was saying a speech, i am 14 years old in june and i am on medication, it was because of her that i am getting better, I hope.

By Ls01 — On Mar 11, 2008

I was diagnosed as a petit mal sufferer from the age of about 8 to about 13 - I was on tegratol. Haven't had episodes for years now but the last few years i've noticed that when I am run down or stressed or have not enough sleep, that I suffer with the same type of feelings I had as a child. Tingling sensation in the tongue & mouth, almost feeling like I cannot talk properly, dazed and vacant feeling and very fatigued. I wonder whether it is something that can reoccur again due to certain stresses? does anyone know as its worrying me again.

By anon6667 — On Jan 05, 2008

After reading this article about Petit Mal, I believe that my 9 month son had one of these seizure. It lasted a couple seconds in which his eyes rolled back and flickered a bit. Hopefully, it won't happen again. If it does than I'll have to seek medical help.

By anon5230 — On Nov 17, 2007

I had my first one at 16, then again at 19 and just now at 20. I guess mine is Atypical symptoms, I get nauseous, dizzy, then slump to the ground. I the dizziness takes a few minutes to go away.

Mine seems to be genetic and is caused by a drop in blood sugar. My cousin used to have them but has outgrown them, she ate protein often and it helped prevent them.

By anon2773 — On Jul 25, 2007

I have an 8 year old daughter who has petite mal and has been on epillin for 3 years. Her symptoms were so slight that even though she might zone out she would continue walking or still hold onto what she had in her hand etc, she would just not be there. She would come out of it and not even know what had happened. Not really that scary but the epillin stopped them completely. We are now starting to reduce her dosage epillin which you can't just stop taking. There does not seem to be any side effects from her taking epillin which is great. Fingers crossed they don't reoccur and that Petite Mal can be a childhood illness.

By digitalv — On Jul 09, 2007

My 6 year old has been having very brief seizures almost from birth. He calls them "the shakes". They never last for longer than maybe a second.

He's scheduled to do an EEG later today. From what I'm reading hear, it sounds like it could be Petite Mal. I'm hoping it is.

By anon494 — On Apr 26, 2007

i am one of the ones that don't stop having petit mal seizures in childhood. i have had them since i was a kid and still have the i am now 27 years old.

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