Is it possible to do complex tasks while having a seizure?

Welcome to the Coping With Epilepsy Forums

Welcome to the Coping With Epilepsy forums - a peer support community for folks dealing (directly or indirectly) with seizure disorders. You can visit the forum page to see the list of forum nodes (categories/rooms) for topics.

Please have a look around and if you like what you see, please consider registering an account and joining the discussions. When you register an account and log in, you may enjoy additional benefits including no ads, access to members only (ie. private) forum nodes and more. Registering an account is free - you have nothing to lose!


Reaction score
I'm not sure who/where else to go with this....
About a year ago I was driving along when suddenly I felt kind of light headed. It was absolutely nothing like the auras I have had for 50 years, nor was it anywhere near as long. After going along for what was at least 1/4 mile (which involved 1 slight curve and several other things) I found myself looking at a deployed airbag in the parking lot of a local restaurant up against a light pole. There were NO tire tracks in the grass or on the sidewalk, so I'm guessing I must have turned right into the parking lot at the driveway.
Question is: Has anyone heard of doing something like this while having a seizure? My logic says that when you are unconscious, or having an aura, there's NO way you'd be able to drive that far without going off the road or hitting something -especially maneuver around a curve. To me, this STILL a year later does NOT sound like another seizure. Or, is it actually possible to do something as complex as driving while having one in limited situations? Part of it sounds like one, but part of it sure doesn't.
Hi jlarson,

Welcome to the forum! I've had seizures for 50 yrs. and I have both absence and complex partial seizures. When I have these seizures I will continue walking around and talking to others as well as if I'm at the store I will pay the cashier I just don't remember anything. The only
difference is when I have a complex partial seizure I will often get up and walk around not realizing it and when I come out of the seizure
I will find myself in a different room than before the seizure started I just don't remember walking to the room or I have even gone outside
a couple of times and when I come out of the seizure I might be by the mailbox or watering plants.
I wish you the best of luck and take my word everyone on the forum is great and very helpful. May God Bless You,

I do believe if it's a task that you do each day and could "auto-pilot" it then you could probably do it during some types of seizures.

One time during a seizure, I got frozen salmon filets from the freezer, cut open all the individual packages with scissors, threw the plastic away, and then put the salmon in a baking dish and even seasoned it with salt and butter as I normally did. I plugged in the roaster, put it on the right temperature, and set a timer on my phone. Right after doing that, I thankfully fell in the opposite direction of the roaster and went through those epilepsy motions on the floor...ugh.

I noticed that like if I was in school and was writing on paper or if my mom would give me a piece of paper and I would try to draw a picture - it would look better than my normal drawings for whatever reason. One time I was in English class and was having trouble putting words together and scribbled out the first letter I wrote because it wasn't what I meant to write and out of the scribble, I kept coloring around the edges and everything, I made a was pretty nifty.

I knew someone that drove to work and they didn't even remember waking up for work that morning. They don't remember leaving their apartment to get into their car. They didn't remember driving to work or parking their car before they walked inside. They had a bad seizure at work sometime that morning I guess a few hours after their shift started.
If you remain partially conscious during your seizures, then it can be a bit like sleepwalking -- and there's a lot you can do while sleepwalking!

Even if you are completely unconscious during your seizures, as you emerge from unconsciousness you can do a lot of relatively complex tasks. During one tonic-clonic, I got a cut on my leg (kicking a glass cabinet) and my semi-conscious brain sent me down three flights of stairs to the laundry room to wash off the blood. That’s where I “came to”, with blood on my hands. With a bit of detective work, I determined that I hadn't murdered anyone. :)
The problem is, my situation was the other way around......
I started feeling strange on the road already about a quarter mile BEFORE hitting anything. I still don't recall the quarter mile drive between the start and hitting the light pole. That's when I suddenly remember being a bit confused looking at a deployed airbag in the parking lot. Then thinking; "What the heck? What happened here?" :/ What made things worse (a bit frightening, like usually afterwards) is when the police and paramedics started talking loud, etc. around me. (Public safety needs to better learn how to approach people in this state!) I just can't see me, or anyone, driving that far without hitting anything while in the middle of having one. (I still don't recall anything from the time/distance it started to seeing an airbag in front of me.)
Hello. I think that during complex partials, a person CAN do many things they're unaware of until after the seizure. I have burned myself severely--second & third degree at least 7 or 8 times during complex partials. Once, I was getting ready to go out with my mother. and the oddest thing happened. I recall going into our bedroom to finish getting ready--the next thing I knew, I was sitting there in my pajamas!!
30 years ago, my neurologist wanted to see if the then new generation of epilepsy drugs would work for me. So, I stopped taking the phenobarbital, and he put me on one and then another of the "new" drugs. Back then, I could drive and had not had any issues with driving.

Then I borrowed my then boyfriend's Bronco II, stick shift and all. As I'm coming up to a stop light where I will turn left, I realize I'm in strong aura-land. The next conscious moment I had was after navigating a left hand turn using a stick shift vehicle, and starting to come very close to the back of a parked car! (my angel worked a bit of overtime that day, thank you!)

I called my neurologist, and he said, "you probably shouldn't be driving while we're changing your meds around." :ROFLMAO: Ya think? It is really a miracle that I did not hit anyone that day o_O

Oh, and none of the new generation drugs worked, so I went back on the phenobarbital. Once my body settled in, again, I started driving again.
Maybe I haven't been describing the situation accurate enough (if so, blame it on wording issues associated with seizures).
I totally understand being able to do things when you're ACTIVELY HAVING an aura. (I've done it all my life myself). The part that confuses me is apparently being able to do things like drive when you're (apparently) unconscious. During the time I originally described above while I was apparently going down the road for over 1/4 mile, I have absolutely no memory of it or recall being able to see or hear anything at all (like I was blacked out). The next thing I recall to this day was lifting my body off the wheel and (in a slightly confused state) trying to figure out what this flat nylon-like thing was hanging from the steering wheel.
Unless something drastically & suddenly changed or something very strange happened for some reason that morning, yes, while I am having an aura, I can do simple things -like if someone takes my hand and gently suggests "Come and sit down before you fall.", that I can do. But I guess a good comparison would be that when my seizures have progressed to grand mal, I have never been able to do anything between the time of hitting the floor and "coming out of it". But that's exactly what seems to have happened that day. If only I could have SOMETHING about that short period come back to me, maybe it would help figure out exactly what happened that day.
The only other answer I can come up with is that Someone had His hand in that whole thing that day for me....!

Medical Definition of Complex partial seizure -​

A form of partial seizure during which the person loses awareness. The patient does not actually become unconscious, and he or she may carry out actions as complex as walking, talking, or driving. The patient may have physical, sensory, and thought disturbances. When the seizure ends, the patient has no memory of those actions.

What you seem to be describing is what normally happens in a complex partial seizure. An aura (simple/partial seizure) easily progresses into a complex seizure. You go from feeling "weird" or "not there, but still there" and then end up losing your sense of what is going on, but you somehow did it. I've been at restaurants and got up and started to walk around and came right back to where I was sitting. I have even gone to the parking lot and finally came back.

The only thing that makes me know something happened is the aura/funny feeling before and then someone telling me what I did. Add the "what just happened" to it and there's your lost 1/4 mile.

After being seizure-free for a couple of years, I was on a job site. I was sent to go do something in a company pickup truck. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of a work zone a couple of miles away where they had just laid pavement down and I had no idea where I was or how I got there. Thankfully no one was hurt, but there were a few people asking what I was doing there? I had no idea. I didn't know where I was or anything. I was just trying to remember how to drive and getting out of there. Once I finally remember how to drive and get out, I took to the nearest place to pull over and look at my GPS. Within a week (rightfully so) I got let go. I've been on disability ever since.

Biggest thing with seizures, especially complex ones, is your memory is mostly erased and you don't remember anything. It took me a long time to research what was happening to me and finally found the term Aura to describe what my symptoms/actions were. I was happy (and sad) to finally at least know what to call it and find out how to describe it and what I should do about it. You hear the term seizure and all anyone can think about are Grand Mals. I call them 'Hollywood Seizures" because that's the only ones people associate with and "act" out.
I think this is starting to make more sense. Are you saying there's a difference, in a sense, between an aura and an actual complex seizure? I've always considered them the same thing. Ever since I was a little kid, things have always been the same whenever I had one:
I'd start having this strange feeling (which I still to this day can't put into words), and most of the time it would go away in a minute or less. On RARE occasion things would progress to my seeing nothing but spinning intense blobs of colors in front of me, and when that happened I knew that in a few seconds I would end up on the floor with a grand mal.
Mine seem to always skip a step from what you describe. Which is probably why no doctor ever made mention of this, or exactly what kind of seizure I had at the start. If this is the case, it seems like I never had a true complex partial seizure until last year because I could always remember everything between the strange feeling/getting dazed, and winding up starting to fall, but never recall hitting the ground.
Glad to help. Just don't assume I’m correct though 😳😂

They've been changing the terms lately and I might be calling stuff the wrong term now. They classify auras as simple partial seizures now. I say "now" because I just saw it as the beginning before one happened. They tend to come before the other seizures which is why we tend to see them as the "warning sign" before the other one happens. I always saw them as the "pre-game" whereas they say it's the kickoff. Well, the kickoff is technically the start of the game so it is classified as a simple partial.

My warning sign tends to be a panic attack. I get scared before one happens. Not necessarily due to the seizure (ie not because I’m afraid of the seizure), but just a symptom. I get that feeling which is similar to the one just as you start to go down a roller coaster. You get to the top and just.... start to go down and you're floating for a split second.
For me, the aura can be a feeling I have when my brain is in "the mood" to have a seizure. One will always come at the start of a seizure, too. Often, because it seems like no time passed after an aura when no one else is around, I'll think I didn't have a seizure. But my family is more around these days (8 people in one house, ya know), so they let me know when one actually did happen. Because I'd rather think I didn't have a seizure, maybe I'm just telling myself it wasn't a seizure to feel better.
I think this is starting to make more sense. Are you saying there's a difference, in a sense, between an aura and an actual complex seizure? I've always considered them the same thing. (Focal aware seizure).

They classify auras as simple partial seizures now.
I wonder if a 'Simple partial seizure' is the same as a 'Focal aware seizure'? Perhaps old and new terms?
I have to giggle when we get to the "types" of seizures. I've had seizures for, ahem, um, over, let's say over 40 years and leave it at that :unsure:

They have been called petit mal seizures, lobal seizures, simple seizures, and others. It reminds me of the "technobabble" that is used on Star Trek. My husband wants to have had this job. A person is hired to do nothing except figure out plausible terms for weird things in the show. I think there's someone in a shack in North Dakota whose job it is to make up names for my seizures, too. :ROFLMAO: The docs gotta sound official, ya know?
Top Bottom