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Inattention vs. Absence Seizures: How to Tell the Difference

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epilepsy are two different conditions, but they often occur together or get misdiagnosed as one another. One sign of epilepsy, known as absence seizures, is commonly mistaken for inattentive ADHD. In order to treat neurological conditions such as epilepsy, symptoms like absence seizures must be recognized for what they are and taken seriously. 

At THINK Neurology for Kids in Cypress, Katy, and The Woodlands, Texas, our doctors are dedicated to helping children with various neurological conditions, including seizure disorders like epilepsy. If you need help identifying whether or not your child is suffering from ADHD or absence seizures, our team is here for you. 

What is inattentive ADHD? 

There are three types of ADHD

Inattentive ADHD usually manifests as a daydreamy, spaced-out personality. Your child might seem forgetful, unfocused, and dazed. They might seem like they're not listening when you speak to them. 

Children with inattentive ADHD often have trouble in school and frequently miss information because they were lost in thought. 

What are absence seizures? 

Absence seizures are a type of generalized seizure. Before talking about absence seizures, it's important to note that seizures don't always mean that the person passes out and jerks uncontrollably. Sometimes seizures are extremely subtle and are even mistaken for zoning out. 

Absence seizures are most common in children. They occur when a child stops what they're doing to stare into space for no apparent reason. These seizures can last anywhere from 10-30 seconds, and they don't cause confusion or loss of consciousness. 

How do you tell the difference? 

Inattentiveness and absence seizures are often mistaken for one another because they have similar symptoms. Children with either inattentive ADHD or absence seizures might seem zoned out, and they may miss information at school because of their conditions. 

The difference between inattentive ADHD and absence seizures is that your child’s attention can be regained in the case of ADHD. In contrast, during an absence seizure, your child might appear unreachable or completely unfocused. With ADHD, attention can be gained in some way, like by clapping or touching your child. 

Absence seizures also cause children to stop doing things abruptly. They might stop walking or talking suddenly as the seizure occurs, and continue normal functioning after it ends. Children with inattentive ADHD will continue what they're doing until it stops capturing their focus. 

If you think your child might be suffering from absence seizures or wish to learn more about the differences between absence seizures and ADHD, it's best to consult an expert. At THINK Neurology for Kids, we can help by answering your questions and meeting with your child. To schedule an appointment, contact us via phone or book a consultation online. 

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