There isn't just one type of seizure. There are many types, ranging from simple "absence seizures," which might simply look as if the person is staring into space -- and which even go unnoticed -- to "psychic" seizures, which affect people's memory, language, and emotions; to the common "tonic-clonic seizures," the kind most people connect with epilepsy and that involve stiffening and jerking throughout the body.
Doctors categorize the many types of seizures into two groups, depending on where the seizures originate.
Generalized seizures start in both sides of the brain. Tonic-clonic seizures are one of a number of different types of generalized seizures, and they alone account for 25 percent of all seizure activity in epilepsy.
Partial seizures, or focal seizures, originate in one area of the brain. Some partial seizures, such as absence seizures, can be mild; in others the person may become angry and combative or may have involuntary muscle contractions. The person may pluck at their clothes, swallow repeatedly, and wander around the room. Sometimes the person is not aware of his or her surroundings or actions. But even partial seizures can sometimes be more physically severe, involving muscle contractions and even falling.
The many different types of partial seizures, taken together, account for 60 percent of all seizure activity.
Your loved one might experience more than one type of seizure as part of a seizure pattern. However, according to Roger Porter, MD, of the Epilepsy Foundation, generally that person will stick to his particular seizure pattern -- a partial seizure followed by a tonic-clonic, for instance, for the duration of the disease.