Postoperative epileptic seizures are recognised but rare. Psychogenic seizures and pseudostatus epilepticus are relatively common, particularly in the peri-operative period. Our series of five cases of postoperative pseudostatus epilepticus demonstrates that the failure to recognise the psychogenic nature of this condition may cause anaesthetists to give inappropriate and potentially harmful treatment. Psychogenic ‘status’ is easy to diagnose once it has been considered. Convulsive episodes lasting longer than 90 s, closed eyes during a ‘tonic–clonic’ attack, retained pupillary response and resistance to eye opening are useful signs. Often there is a history of multiple admissions with ‘status epilepticus’ and of previous postoperative ‘status’.