What about the words used to describe epileptic seizures? The word ’seizure’ is that most commonly used by neurologists for all types, but, depending upon the manifestation of the seizure, they may call them convulsions. Often they will use the words employed by their patients—for example, fit, turn, attack or dizzy spell. People who have two types of seizure often call them ‘big ones’ and ‘little ones’. As long as the patient and the doctor find themselves talking about the same events, this is perfectly acceptable.
The word seizure is really too sudden and violent a word to describe the minor distortions of consciousness that may be the only manifestation of some types of epilepsy such as absences, but we do not have a better word to cover all types.
Sometimes in correspondence and conversation doctors employ the words ‘epileptiform’ or ‘epileptoid’. In our experience, doctors who use such terms are skating round the subject and avoiding frankly stating that their patient has had an epileptic seizure. The only justification for such a term might be the description of attacks called anoxic seizures in which a few jerks of the limbs arise during a profound faint, in which the blood supply to the brain is briefly insufficient. Apart from this example, and strokes, which used to be called apoplectic seizures, by common usage in English-speaking countries a seizure now means an epileptic event.