Word on Health

Word on Functional Neurological Disorder (FND)

Our grateful thanks to FND Action for their contribution to our radio report (which you can hear again at the bottom of this page) and for the information below. Click here to visit the FND Action website.

Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) is a brain network disorder that can encompass a diverse range of neurological symptoms including limb weakness, paralysis, seizures, walking difficulties, spasms, twitching, sensory issues and more. Anyone of any age can receive the diagnosis. For many symptoms are severe and disabling, and life changing for all.

Anyone can develop FND. An estimated four to 12 people per 100,000 will develop it. FND is estimated to currently impact between 50,000 and 100,000 adults and up to 20,000 young adults under the age of 16 in the UK

Whilst the symptoms may appear similar to those seen in neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Epilepsy, and can be just as debilitating, they have a different underlining cause. 

The basic wiring of the nervous system is intact, but there is a problem with how the brain/nervous system is “functioning”, and how the brain fails to send and/or receive signals (messages) correctly. This impacts on how the body responds to different tasks such as movement control and attention.

FND is often explained to patients as a psychological reaction due to past trauma, or as symptoms due to stress. These explanations usually fail and result in patients feeling alienated, stigmatised and not-believed. The main reason for the failure of such explanations is that they take a potential risk factor and turn it into the cause of the problem.

Symptoms: The list of symptoms below is not inclusive, but the more common symptoms which may lead to an FND diagnosis. For further information about symptoms please visit the neurosymptoms websiteOther symptoms, such as fatigue and chronic pain, may present as a consequence of the condition or as a comorbidity.

Movement and motor symptoms (Sometimes referred to as Functional Movement Disorder)

  • Tremor: uncontrollable shaking, most often in an arm or leg, that can be sporadic and may disappear if the person is distracted.
  • Functional Dystonia: uncontrollable and often painful muscle spasms which may result in, for example, a hand clenched, or a foot fixed, or facial spasms.
  • Functional Myoclonus: sudden uncontrollable movements such as jerks and jumps, without being startled.
  • Functional Tics: involuntary rapid and repetitive movement and sound.
  • Gait difficulties: problems with walking e.g. dragging a leg, sudden knee buckling (drop attacks), uneven steps (like walking on ice or lack of leg coordination).
  • Limb and muscle weakness: a feeling that your arm or leg doesn’t feel normal and is unable to bear weight. Can affect muscle control such as with the bladder and bowel. There may be some inconsistency with the weakness.
  • Paralysis: an inability to move any part of the body, which can last for a period of hours or even days, and most often returns in time. This may present in a stroke-like manner effecting one side of the body, a specific limb, effect both legs together or full body paralysis can occur.
  • Functional and dissociative seizures (Formerly known as Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder [NEAD])

Sensory symptoms (Important to be aware that sensory symptoms can also be associated with emotional/mental health problems, other diagnosis’, and general aging. With FND, the underlining cause is different)

  • Fleeting sensations: feeling like skin is crawling, or electric shock sensation, or twitching.
  • Hypersensitivity: being over sensitive to light, sound, smell, touch or taste.
  • Cognitive problems: such as memory loss, poor concentration, word finding difficulties, and speech disturbances.

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.