Understanding Functional Neurological Disorder (FND): Myths and Facts
Updated: May 6
Functional neurological disorder (FND) describes a problem with how the brain receives and sends information to the rest of the body.
FND can cause a range of symptoms including limb weakness, dystonia/spasms, tremor, numbness, and seizures as well as speech, vision and cognitive problems. Other symptoms like pain or fatigue can co-occur with FND but are not caused by the disorder.
The symptoms of FND are caused by a problem with the function of the nervous system rather than structural changes or damage. A helpful way to explain the problem is to think of the brain as a computer. The “hardware” (brain structure) is not damaged but “software” (brain processing) is experiencing glitches sending and receiving information.
Myth: A diagnosis of FND can be made when other disorders are ruled out.
Fact: Diagnosis of FND can be a confusing process. FND can’t be diagnosed using blood tests or scans. A diagnosis should be made based on one or more clinical features or signs that a specialist like a neurologist can recognize as typical of FND.
Fact: People with FND may also have other medical conditions. For example, about 20% of people with FND have another neurological diagnosis. Medical conditions that can co-occur with FND include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, migraine, joint hypermobility, carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica.
Myth: Only people dealing with stress or trauma develop FND.
Fact: Stress and previous trauma are risk factors for FND but do not cause it.
Fact: Anyone with a brain can develop FND. An estimated four to 12 people per 100,000 will develop FND.
Myth: FND symptoms are voluntary and will get better on their own.
Fact: Disability caused by FND is very real. People experiencing FND symptoms are not making them up. The problems in FND are going on in a level of the brain that are not under one’s control.
Fact: FND needs individualized multidisciplinary treatment. Education, physical rehabilitation and psychotherapy all can have a role. Many people with FND may be given medications which are unhelpful and end up causing side effects that make symptoms worse.
Myth: Information and help for people with FND is hard to find.
Fact: Many FND advocacy organizations exist to provide information and support including:
The therapists at Engage Therapy & Wellness in Syracuse NY work collaboratively to help people diagnosed with neurological disorders to achieve their goals. Do you or someone you know have FND and want to learn more? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-810-2423 with any questions.