Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Petit Mal Seizure

  • Kenneth R. PerrineEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1052


Absence seizure; Petit mal epilepsy


A petit mal seizure is the lay term for an absence seizure. It is called “petit mal” (“small illness” in French) to distinguish it from a grand mal (“big illness” in French) generalized tonic-clonic seizure. The term “petit mal” is actually a misnomer because absence seizures can occur with other seizure types in more debilitating disorders (e.g., Lennox-Gastaut syndrome). To further complicate classification, many patients will use the term “petit mal” when describing complex or simple partial seizures (focal seizures with or without retained awareness/responsiveness),1myoclonic seizures, or other seizure types that are not as dramatic as the generalized tonic-clonic seizure that the public usually pictures as a seizure. It is more accurate to use the term to avoid ambiguity.

Current Knowledge

See chapter “ Absence Seizure.”


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References and Readings

  1. Berg, A. T., Berkovic, S. F., Brodie, M. J., Buchhalter, J., Cross, J. H., van Emde, B. W., Engel, J., French, J., Glauser, T. A., Mathern, G. W., Moshe, S. L., Nordli, D., Plouin, P., & Scheffer, I. E. (2010). Revised terminology and concepts for organization of seizures and epilepsies: Report of the ILAE commission on classification and terminology, 2005–2009. Epilepsia, 51(4), 676–685.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Wyllie, E. (Ed.). (2015). Wyllie’s treatment of epilepsy: Principles and practice (6th ed.). New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neurological SurgeryWeill Cornell MedicineNew YorkUSA