Functional Neurological Disorder

Functional Neurological Disorder, previously known as Conversion Disorder, is a complex condition that causes disturbances in neurological function that affect a person’s quality of life. Although the symptoms are real and cause significant distress, there is no structural neurological damage. These symptoms might include loss of bodily functions, seizures, paralysis, or difficulties with balance and movement. Getting effective treatment from a psychiatrist experienced in FND can help patients better manage their symptoms.

What Causes Functional Neurological Disorder?

Experts in the field do not believe symptoms are imagined or "all in the head." Rather, it involves abnormal functioning of the nervous system that can be rooted in numerous factors. Potential contributors include:

- Stress or emotional trauma

- Dissociation or difficulties processing emotions 

- Learning or conditioning factors

- Alteration of neural circuitry dealing with self-monitoring or sense of agency over body movements

Common Symptoms of FND

FND symptoms can vary greatly between individuals. Some common signs and symptoms include:

- Weakness or paralysis of a limb or the entire body

- Tremor, spasms or other abnormal movements 

- Loss of balance or coordination

- Difficulty swallowing or slurred speech

- Loss of vision or hearing

- Seizures

- Memory loss or confusion

The symptoms often follow a physical or emotional trauma, and may initially resemble a neurological condition like stroke, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy. However, unlike other neurological disorders, FND symptoms are not associated with damage to the nervous system itself.

Getting a Diagnosis

Many people with FND go through multiple medical tests and scans trying to find a cause before receiving a diagnosis. Since there are no clinical tests to confirm FND, diagnosis relies on ruling out other potential neurological conditions through a full medical history, physical exam, EEG or MRI testing.

A psychiatrist can play a key role in recognizing FND symptoms but typically, a definitive diagnosis of FND is made by a neurologist. Their expertise is critical for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Once FND is diagnosed, your psychiatrist will develop a personalized treatment plan aimed at managing your symptoms and improving your overall well-being. The right treatment can help patients better manage symptoms and improve functioning. Common options may include:

- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to address trauma or stressors contributing to FND.

- Occupational therapy to retrain the brain and body's normal responses.

- Medications for co-existing mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.

- Joining a support group to share coping strategies with others experiencing FND.

A psychiatrist will not only focus on treating your FND symptoms but also address any co-existing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This dual approach is essential, as research shows that FND patients often have a higher prevalence of these conditions.

With compassionate care from an experienced psychiatrist, many people with functional neurological disorders can find relief from their symptoms and regain quality of life. Accurate diagnosis is the first step.

If you are struggling with unexplained neurological symptoms, connect with a skilled psychiatrist to explore whether FND may be the cause. Proper treatment can make a big difference in managing this complex but treatable condition.

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