Most people associate epilepsy with jerking movements, but one might be surprised to find that there are other symptoms—often silent symptoms—that are also associated with the condition. While a seizure is the most common symptom of epileptic conditions, there are many other symptoms, too. Seizing movements may be a symptom of other illnesses as well. This symptom is evidence that the normal connections between nerve cells in the brain have been disrupted, and the causes of this are numerous, including low blood sugar, concussion, or withdrawals from substances like alcohol or illicit drugs. Here are six early warning signs of an oncoming or ongoing seizure:

1. Breathing problems or stopping breathing

In some episodes of seizing, the individual may stop breathing momentarily. The individual should see a physician if the stopping of breathing or other breathing problems do not return to normal after the episode is over. Also, if the seizing lasts for more than five minutes and is accompanied by a loss of breath, then a trip to the hospital is in order.

2. Loss of bowel or bladder control

Whether the seizing is considered “grand mal” (which is a major jerking episode and may involve a fall or a loss of breathing) or a “petit mal” one, the individual experiencing that episode may see a loss of control of both the bladder and the bowels. This typically occurs during longer episodes of seizing, and this is indicative of a loss of body control accompanying the seizing.

3. Jerking movements 

This is the most common symptom associated with the epileptic condition. Physicians typically refer to these movements as “clonic seizing,” and they are either repeated or rhythmic movements. The movements may include repeated mouth movements or a jerking of the limbs. Typically, these movements are on both sides of the individual’s body. However, sometimes the individual will experience myoclonic movements, which are sudden jerks of the limbs. Usually, there is no loss of consciousness during this type of movement.

4. Stiffening of the body

This type of movement isn’t truly an observable movement at all; it is often referred to as “tonic” movements. With this symptom, the individual may be unable to control the muscles of the back, limbs, and can result in falling to the floor. Loss of consciousness may or may not accompany the stiffening. Typically, however, this happens if the individual falls to the floor.

5. Staring

While most people tend to associate an epileptic condition with jerking movements with seizures, there are those individuals who simply sit rigidly and stare during an episode. These are called focal seizures, and they are accompanied by a loss of awareness. Chiefly, those in the presence of the individual will note that the individual does not respond to verbal cues. Some may even experience repetitive movements, but these are distinct from jerking or seizing. Once this episode is done, the individual usually doesn’t remember the incident.

6. Loss of consciousness

This symptom often occurs when a person is experiencing tonic movements or during the stage of an “absence” seizing. Many times, this symptom presents in children, but it can occur in adults as well. This symptom may present as many as 100 times in a 24-hour period! Physicians previously called this type of seizing “petit mal.”