When to worry about staring spells

Wendy Mitchell, child neurologist, talks about the difference between petit mal and just simple staring spells. She differentiates seizures that interrupt action behavior from just simply staring off into space because of boredom.
When To Worry About Staring Spells In Children
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When to worry about staring spells

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By far, the overwhelming majority of people who are staring off into space are just staring off into space. They are not having seizures. We all do it. You're watching TV, you get bored, you don't even realize that you're staring off into space. Or you're supposed to be listening to the teacher and you tune them out. That's not a seizure either. Petit mal, the majority of the time, it interrupts behavior. It doesn't only happen when you are passive. It's not only just when your brain is in neutral, it's happening when your brain is in drive. If you stop eating your soup, drop the spoon, pause, and then go back to eating your soup; that might be petit mal. If you don't want to eat your soup and you're sitting at the table ignoring mom. You're thinking about your baseball game or whatever else, that's probably inattention or daydreaming.

Wendy Mitchell, child neurologist, talks about the difference between petit mal and just simple staring spells. She differentiates seizures that interrupt action behavior from just simply staring off into space because of boredom.

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Wendy Mitchell, MD

Pediatrician, Neurology, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Wendy Mitchell, MD, is Professor of Clinical Neurology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. She is acting Division Head of Neurology at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where she has practiced for over 30 years. She is a native of Los Angeles. Her current research interests include cognitive and behavioral aspects of childhood epilepsy, clinical research in anticonvulsants, and a rare immune-mediated syndrome, opsoclonus-myoclonus (or dancing eyes syndrome). In her free time she enjoys scuba diving and yoga.

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