What is Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder?

Functional neurological symptom disorder is a medical condition where psychological stress leads to and manifests as some sort of physical problem. The illness of functional neurological symptom disorder starts when you go through a trauma your emotional or mental crisis are converted into some sort of physical problem. For example, suppose if someone falls from a horse their legs gets paralyzed even when there was no physical injury; it can be a case of functional neurological symptom disorder. The symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder appears without any physical cause and patients do not have any control over them.

Functional neurological symptom disorder is also called as Conversion Disorder. Functional neurological symptom disorder usually affects your sense organs or movements such as ability to hear, see or walk. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person and can come and go or remain steady. Immediate attention with proper management can ease out the situation. Adults and teens usually show severe symptoms as compared to young children.

What is Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder?

Causes of Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

Physical problems in functional neurological symptom disorder always results from some trauma or stressful incident but its cause is still unknown. As physical movements are governed by brain, stress can trigger unusual brain reaction leading to functional neurological symptom disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

Signs and symptoms related to functional neurological symptom disorder affecting body movements are as follows:

  • Paralysis or weakness in movement is the major symptom of functional neurological symptom disorder.
  • Abnormalities in body movement such as problem in walking is seen.
  • Another major symptom of functional neurological symptom disorder could be that the patient is unable to maintain body balance.
  • Discomfort in swallowing.
  • Sudden occurrence and reoccurrence of symptoms.
  • Instances where body stops responding.

Signs and symptoms related to functional neurological symptom disorder affecting senses are as follows:

  • Numbness or loss of touch sensations.
  • Difficulty in speaking is a symptom of functional neurological symptom disorder.
  • Lack of proper vision.
  • Problems in hearing.

When to Visit a Doctor for Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder?

Signs and symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder must be reported immediately followed by diagnosis. If the problem is due to physical injury then suitable treatment can ease out the symptoms. In case of functional neurological symptom disorder, the patient needs physiological treatment.

The doctor would ask one of more of the following question.

  • Tell me about your symptoms?
  • When was the first time you noticed any symptoms?
  • Have you noticed any changes in symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder?
  • What is the severity of symptoms?
  • Have you undergone any trauma or stress in recent past?
  • Are you suffering from any physiological or other medical problems?
  • Do you drink or take drugs? If yes then how frequently?
  • Is there anything that you think can improve your situation?

Risk Factors for Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

Following factors can increase the risk of functional neurological symptom disorder:

  • Emotional trauma or severe stress in recent past is a risk factor for functional neurological symptom disorder.
  • Risk of functional neurological symptom disorder is higher in women.
  • Mental illness or personality disorders increases the risk.
  • History of functional neurological symptom disorder in family.
  • Any incident of sexual or physical abuse.

Complications in Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

If the symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder are not attended in time, it can lead to substantial physical disability in the patients.

Tests to Diagnose Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

American Psychiatric Association has published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which acts as the standard for insurance companies and mental health experts to diagnose the condition. There are no standard tests for diagnoses of functional neurological symptom disorder. The purpose of the tests in this case is to ensure that symptoms are not caused due to neurological or physical condition. Some of the commonly used tests are as follows:

  • Physical Exam for diagnosing functional neurological symptom disorder is simple and does not cause any pain or involve any special medical equipment.
  • X-Rays or Other Imaging Tests to diagnose functional neurological symptom disorder, with these tests the doctor tries to ensure that symptoms are not caused by physical or neurological condition.
  • Another way to Diagnose is to Use An electroencephalogram (EEG) Scan. This process helps in determining any neurological condition such as epilepsy or any other issues with brain that may lead to seizure symptoms.

It is not easy to diagnose functional neurological symptom disorder as its symptoms can be similar to some other medical disorders such as:

Treatment for Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

Fortunately, symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder can be rectified without any treatment with just a little assurance by the physiological medical expert that there is no serious medical issue with the body.

Treatment is usually suitable in such cases where signs and symptoms can persist longer or repeat themselves. Also serious symptoms would require proper treatment.

Type of treatment for functional neurological symptom disorder is selected by the specialists according to the symptoms.

  • Counseling or Psychotherapy to Treat Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder: A professional counselor can help in easing out symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder such as depression, anxiety etc...
  • Physical Therapy or PT to Treat Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder: There are certain symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder that can only be treated with proper physical therapy (PT). It includes symptoms like weakness and tightness of muscles, lack of body movements, paralysis etc...
  • Another Way to Treat Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder is by Treating Related Stress and other Conditions: Certain medications that can relieve you from anxiety, stress and other problems that can lead to functional neurological symptom disorder are helpful. It includes antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and other drugs depending on the diagnoses of your situation.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Can Also be Used for Treatment: This is a special treatment procedure for relief from symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder in which small currents are given to brain. These currents can activate brain by exciting it with electrical signals and altering its biochemistry. This treatment procedure is still under research and its results and not complete known in medical science.

Prevention of Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

Functional neurological symptom disorder results from some sort of trauma or stressful event. Thus activities which can relieve you from stress such as yoga and meditation can help in easing out symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder. The best way to stay away from any chances of functional neurological symptom disorder is to ensure good living conditions, high quality of life and stability in life.

If you are having any other medical conditions then you need to follow proper treatment procedures. These treatment procedures can include medications and counseling.

Prognosis/Outlook for Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder

Symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder can go away in few days in some cases while last for few weeks in others. It can keep coming and going. None of the symptoms of functional neurological symptom disorder causes any threat to life but can make reduce your body movements and ability to work and thus quality of life.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: September 12, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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