Clinical physiologists’ experiences of working with people with non epileptic attack disorder: A qualitative study

Olivia MacNicholas, Helen Pryce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To explore the perspectives of clinical physiologists on working with patients with nonepileptic attack disorder (NEAD). Nonepileptic attack disorder is a medically unexplained symptom frequently encountered by clinical
physiologists in the field of neurophysiology. Studies in healthcare professionals show that they often find patients with medically unexplained symptoms challenging, uncomfortable, and frustrating to interact with. Clinical physiologists spend a substantial amount of time with patients and are key to the assessment of the condition. It is not known how physiologists experience working with patients with NEAD.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with clinical physiologists who frequently work with these patients. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed according to grounded theory methodology.
Results: Twelve participants including current trainees and qualified clinical physiologists working in neurophysiology were interviewed for the study.
Participants described the experience of working with people with NEAD as anxiety provoking and unpredictable. The sources of this anxiety were the nature of the psychological aspects of the condition, the need to preserve professional boundaries and a lack of preparedness to manage conversations about distress or the psychological factors impacting the NEAD.
Conclusions: There is a risk that patient care is compromised by the lack of preparation and skills training of physiologists.
Practice Implications: Physiologists need further training in counseling skills to increase tolerance to emotionally laden content in patient accounts and knowledge of suitable referral routes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108501
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Early online date8 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

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© 2022, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Non epileptic attack disorder; psychogenic seizures; neurophysiologist; qualitativer


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