Seizure drawings: Insight into the self-image of children with epilepsy

Carl E. Stafstrom, Janice Havlena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that is associated with numerous psychological challenges, especially in children. Drawings have been underutilized as a method to obtain insight into psychological issues in children with epilepsy. We asked 105 children with epilepsy, ages 5 to 18 years, to draw a picture of what it is like to have a seizure. Across ages and epilepsy syndromes, the drawings showed evidence of impaired self-concept, low self-esteem, and a sense of helplessness and vulnerability. Overall, the drawings of human figures were less developed than expected for chronological age. In some drawings, indicators of underlying depression were found. When considered by epilepsy syndrome or seizure type, some specific artistic features were noted. Children with simple partial (motor) seizures drew distorted body parts, especially limbs. Those with complex partial seizures depicted sensory symptoms and mental status changes such as confusion. Children with generalized tonic-clonic seizures showed shaking extremities. Drawings by children with absence seizures illustrated mainly staring. In conclusion, drawings are a powerful method to examine the self-concept of children with epilepsy and gain insight into their feelings about themselves and their world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Art
  • Children
  • Drawings
  • Epilepsy
  • Psychological factors
  • Seizures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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