Why I stare at space so often (absence seizures)

Children experience seizures due to a nervous system disorder known as Epilepsy. Your brain activities will be changed for a moment when seizures happen. As per medical health professionals, epilepsy can cause a variety of seizures.


The other name of absence seizures is petit mal seizures and the duration of seizure activity in your brain is up to fifteen seconds. It is not an easy task to recognize the symptoms of an absence seizure only the person who is affected by the seizure can notice identify the symptoms of absence seizures or petit mal seizures. However, people should take this problem seriously before it becomes dangerous. Generally, people who are suffering from absence seizures will lose consciousness for a short time.

What are the indicators of a Petit Mal seizure or an absence seizure?

Children who are between the ages of five to nine years old are mostly affected by the absence of seizures or petit mal seizure. Sometimes, even adult people also experience this type of seizures. Seizures are classified into two types as per the medical health professionals. These includes

  • Absence or Petit Mal seizures
  • Grand mal seizures

Grand mal seizures are more dangerous than absence seizures as they can last longer and the impact also very extreme.

Always gazing at space, appearing suddenly motionless, smacking the lips together, leaning forward or backward, fluttering eyelids, making sudden hand movements, and unable to complete a sentence or stop talking mid-sentence are the symptoms of an absence seizure or petit mal seizure.

People frequently misinterpret children who are suffering from absence seizures for misbehaving or being inattentive. In most of the cases, first, the class teacher of the children will identify the symptoms of an absence seizure in a child than parents. It is due to children spend most of their time at school. The child’s body functions will temporarily stop for a moment and he or she will be fine after fifteen seconds. Children who are affected by the petit mal seizures will be not connected with this world for a certain period.

People can easily identify that the person is suffering from an absence seizure as those people are no longer connected with their surroundings. They will remain silent even if you make sound, or touch them or disturb them. on the other hand, grand mal seizures will give a warning sensation in the beginning. The main difference between the absence of seizures and grand mal seizures is absence seizures will come abruptly and gives no signs of warning. But it is not the case with grand mal seizures as it may begin with an aura. That is why people who are taking care of the children who are suffering from these types of seizures will keep an eye on them all the time.

What are the causes of an Absence Seizure or Petit mal Seizures?

One of the most important parts of the human body is the brain. You have to depend on it for many things. Your heartbeat and breathing will be maintained by the brain. In order to communicate with other people, you need your nerve cells that are present in your brain to work. Your brain will send an electrical and chemical signal for proper communication. Your electrical activity in the brain will be affected by an absence seizure or a petit mal seizure. When you are affected by an absence seizure, it interferes with your electrical signals and it will make them repeat themselves. You will observe an altered level of neurotransmitters in the people who are suffering from an absence seizure or a petit mal seizure. Neurotransmitters play a vital role when you are communicating with other people.

The main cause of absence seizures is still unknown and researchers are still working on it. One thing cleared is that it happens due to genes and able to pass down from one generation to the next generation. The main trigger of a petit mal seizure in others is flashing lights or hyperventilation. It is very difficult for medical professionals or doctors to find the specific cause of an absence seizure in some patients.

How are Absence Seizures or a Petit mal seizure diagnosed?

To diagnose your condition, your physician may conduct a physical exam and will ask for a detailed description of the seizures. The following are the two tests are included in the process of diagnosing an absence seizure. These tests include

  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Brain Scans

Electroencephalography (EEG)

EEG is considered as a painless procedure compared to other tests. This test is used to measure the waves of electrical activity in your brain. Your primary care provider will get the results by using the Electroencephalography machine. With the help of small electrodes attached to the scalp with paste, it will allow the brain waves to be transmitted to the EEG machine.

Fast breathing during an electroencephalography test will determine whether you have an absence seizure or not. The brain pattern will be entirely different from the normal pattern when you are affected by an absence seizure during the EEG.

Brain Scans

Brain-imaging studies are necessary to determine the petit mal seizures. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is considered as one of the brain scans. With the help of this test, your physician will rule out the other problems in your brain such as brain stroke or a tumor along with an absence seizure. These tests will provide a detailed image of the brain and provides essential information about your brain activities. It will be difficult for your child to participate in this activity as he or she needs to hold still for a very long time, and we would advise you to talk with your medical professional about the possible use of sedation.

What are the treatment options are available for an absence seizure or a petit mal seizure?

Your treatment will depend on the severeness of your seizures. Your physician may recommend an anti-seizure drug and gradually increase the dosage of your medication to control the seizures. We would advise you to consult your doctor when you want to stop taking the medications and this decision should be made under your physician’s supervision.

Following are the medications recommended by your doctor for treating absence seizure includes

  • Ethosuximide (Zarontin)
  • Valproic acid (Depakene)
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)

Ethosuximide (Zarontin)

This is your physician’s first choice drug to manage your symptoms of an absence seizure. This drug has the capability of treating your condition and seizures respond well to this medication. The following are the possible side effects of this drug. These include

  • Nausea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Getting difficulty in sleeping or unable to sleep or sleep disturbances
  • Feeling drowsy all the time

Valproic acid (Depakene)

The main side effect of this drug is birth defects in babies. Girls who would like to use this drug even after entering into their adulthood should know the potential risks of this drug and they should have a word with their physician or medical professional. We would advise you not to take this drug during pregnancy or while trying to conceive.

This drug is for the children who are suffering from both the absence of seizures and grand mal seizures.

Lamotrigine (Lamictal)

It has been observed in a study that this medication is not as effective as the other drugs like ethosuximide or valproic acid. But, the main advantage of this drug is it comes with fewer side effects. The following are the side effects of this drug. These includes

Lifestyle Changes

Follow a diet

Consume foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates and it is called a ketogenic diet. You are able to control your seizures by following this diet. Make a decision to follow the ketogenic diet only when other traditional medications failed to ease the symptoms of an absence seizure or petit mal seizure.

It is not an easy task for you to maintain the ketogenic diet, but some people get benefitted by following this diet.

Get enough sleep

If you are not sleeping well or sleeping less than four hours can trigger seizures. Make sure that you are sleeping eight hours a day.

Make a note

Keep a track of your seizures and make a note of it whenever you are affected by an absence seizure or petit mal seizure. Your notes might be helpful for your physician to evaluate your condition.

Take medication correctly

Never forget to take your medication daily. It will prevent further seizure attacks and if you are experiencing any side effects after taking the medication, we would advise you to discuss it with your medical professional. He or she may change the dosage of your drug or may switch you to another medication.


Children who are suffering from absence seizures are stressed about what’s going to happen in the future. This fear is common in the people who are leading their life with an absence seizure or petit mal seizure. We would advise you to have a word with your pediatrician if your children are suffering from the symptoms of an absence seizure or petit mal seizure.


  1. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003032.pub3/full
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29402631
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30921011

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