A Trance of Pleasure

Photo by Flickr user ubiquity_zh. Click for sourceA 2003 study in Epilepsy and Behavior has some descriptions of the ecstatic seizures experienced by some patients with epilepsy.

They include intense erotic and spiritual experiences, feelings of become close to and blending with other people, and some sensations that couldn’t be fully captured in words.

I’ve put some of the descriptions below because they sound absolutely wonderful:

Patient 1
The first seizure occurred during a concert when he was a teenager. He remembers perceiving short moments of an indefinable feeling. Such episodes recurred and a few months later evolved into a GTC [generalized tonic–clonic seizure]. He characterizes these sensations as “a trance of pleasure.” “It is like an emotional wave striking me again and again. I feel compelled to obey a sort of phenomenon. These sensations are outside the spectrum of what I ever have experienced outside a seizure.” He also describes cold shivering, increased muscle tension, and a delicious taste, and he swallows repeatedly. He enjoys the sensations and is absorbed in them in a way that he can barely hear when spoken to. When in a particular, relaxed mood, he can sometimes induce seizures by “opening up mentally” and contracting muscles. He denies any religious aspects of the symptoms. “It’s the phenomenon, the feeling, the fit taking control.” It lasts a few minutes and afterward he is tired with difficulties expressing himself for about 1 hour.

Patient 6
This man has a multifaceted symptomatology and a tendency to interpret bodily sensations as supernatural phenomena. Nevertheless, from the beginning of his forties, he experienced distinct, stereotypical attacks with a “change of concept of the surrounding world.” He reports an “oscillating erotic sensation, like twinkling polar light” in his pelvic region and down the inside of his thighs. This is described as different from sexual excitement, more like “an erogenous charge of the skin.” He may also have a clairvoyant feeling of a “telepathic contact with a divine power.” These sensations are of short duration and may be accompanied by faintness and followed by drowsiness. With carbamazepine treatment, the frequency of these attacks has been considerably reduced.

Patient 11
The attacks started in his first school year. The experiences are beyond what can be described in words. “I can sense the colours red and orange without seeing them. The feeling has an erotic aspect. It starts in the stomach and spreads upwards. It is pleasant, but not similar to ordinary joy. It is like an explosion.” In the close presence of another person, he can feel a sort of peculiar unification. An intense déjà vu sensation, a queer taste, and “gooseflesh” are also components of the seizures. As a child he was surprised that his friends denied having similar feelings, and he learned to keep them to himself. Sometimes these attacks evolved into CPSs with reduced consciousness and complex automatisms and afterward he had transient difficulties speaking. Before the diagnosis of epilepsy was made in his late teens, he was referred to a psychiatrist. A right-sided temporal lobe calcification was diagnosed by computed tomography at about 30 years, but he refused surgery. At 42, an expansion in the same region was found by MRI, and he was operated for an anaplastic oligodendroglioma. He was seizure-free for 6 years until recurrence of the tumor.

One of the striking things about epilepsy is how different each person’s experience of having a seizure can be.

While it is stereotypically assumed to be a negative experience, some aspects can be remarkably beautiful.

The Russian author Dostoyevsky famously said of his epilepsy “I would experience such joy as would be inconceivable in ordinary life – such joy that no one else could have any notion of. I would feel the most complete harmony in myself and in the whole world and this feeling was so strong and sweet that for a few seconds of such bliss I would give ten or more years of my life, even my whole life perhaps.”

There are several more case descriptions in the article, all of which have some aspect which touch at least the edge of ecstasy, if not the very heart of the experience.

Link to article.
Link to PubMed entry for same.

4 thoughts on “A Trance of Pleasure”

  1. Ecstatic Movement/Seizures

    Please tell me there are others in whom their movement disorders turned from curses into extremely pleasurable blessings. For me, the conversion came from a yoga that targets the vagus and other nerves with input to the parasympathetic nervous system. Is anyone willing to open a dialogue with me concerning this?

  2. Roy, i have suffered from ecstatic seizures since around the age of 4 until i was 18, now iam 23 for the past five years the effects of ecstatic seizures have dwindled down so much that im not as familiar with it as i was; i used to get ecstatic seizures periodically, so a period of at least once a month if not more but the inensity of it would vary from time to time, everytime i get it i wanted more of it, but along with it was at times also i do get weak seizures where i find it difficult to form a sentence or slightly shiver but that was nothing in comparison to the blissful feeling, along that blissful feeling i used to get strong prenomitions before i wake up but at that young age i used to not manipulate my dreams very well, so i missed out on somethings, when i started becoming teenger de javu kicked in on a frequent basis; also along that blissful feeling i used to get a strong sense of unfamiliarity of myself and my surroundings, but i was so used to such things that i didnt see them as a big issue in my life, I never knew what i suffered from all my life until last week, believe it or not i have been looking for answers all my life but couldnt find any, a big reason was my parents dismiss such feelings as a bunch of nonesense and thats why i kept it to myself all that time; one more thing a big reason why my so called “seizure” decreased significantly in the past five years was because when i was at the age of 18 i smoked weed for almost a full year and after that those feelings of europhia i used to have were gone for the most part and thank you

  3. I have ecstatic seizures, too. It began in childhood & still happens regularly at age 39. Sometimes they go in cycles, but I usually self induce because I enjoy them so much. Especially if I’m with someone who enjoys it, too. I’m more than happy & willing to discuss it with you, if you want.

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