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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors

Clinical Treatment of Functional Seizures in People with Torture and Refugee Trauma Experiences

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Dr Kasia Kozlowska
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist/Researcher
Westmead Children’s Hospital

Jeanette Ninnis
Counsellor/Social Work Practitioner

Refugee survivors of torture and trauma often experience multiple losses and complex prolonged accumulated trauma. They can have complex presentations that are often misdiagnosed in general clinical settings. One of the complex presentations STARTTS sees, particularly in the Yazidi community, is functional seizures (non-epileptic seizures) which can be anxiety provoking for clients and challenging for the treating clinician. These functional seizures are not caused by abnormal electrical discharges. Instead, they arise in the context of chronic or severe stress in the resettlement context. Unlike epileptic seizures, which can be dangerous, functional seizures are not. In this Clinical Master Class, held on 14 November 2022, Dr Kasia Kozlowska, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a clinician researcher and the author of Functional Somatic Symptoms in Children and Adolescents: The Stress-System Approach to Assessment and Treatment, shared her expertise on functional seizures including research, clinical implications and treatment, and gave practical strategies on how to help clients. Jeanette Ninnis, a social work practitioner and an experienced STARTTS counsellor, illustrated STARTTS’ work with a case study of one of her female Yazidi clients who presented with severe functional seizures.

View the two lectures and panel discussion by clicking on the course content below. When you are finished you can request the system send you a certificate of completion. The slide PDFs are available for Jeanette Ninnis’ presentation in the Materials tab above. Dr Kasia Kozlowska did not provide a copy of her slides.

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