Functional Neurological Symptoms

Functional neurological symptoms are neurological symptoms that are genuine, but not due to a disease of the nervous system.

They are called functional symptoms because they affect the “function” of the body rather than being caused by damage to the “structure”.

This problem has been around for a long time, for most of history it was called “hysteria”, though it is common in men as well as women. More recently, psychiatrists called it “conversion disorder” because patients were thought to be “converting” stress into physical symptoms.

However not all patients experience significant psychological problems. A lot of patients just have an accident or a period of illness and then get functional symptoms afterwards.

Symptoms can include:

  • Loss of motor control
  • Sensory symptoms
  • Speech problems
  • Attacks or seizures
  • Visual symptoms
  • Cognitive problems

These symptoms are common, affecting around a third of people attending neurology outpatient clinics.
They can resolve quickly and of their own accord, and sometimes a clear, reassuring explanation and some time is all a patient needs to get better.

The following websites have a lot of very useful information:

When symptoms become more chronic they can cause a lot of problems, with a third of affected patients not being able to work. Patients are often very distressed by their symptoms. In this case we tend to diagnose “Functional Neurological Symptoms Disorder” (FND). 

When patients are affected by FND they can benefit from specialist help including physiotherapy and psychological therapy.

At the Rosa Burden Centre we have psychiatrists, therapists and nurses with lots of experience working with patients with these symptoms.

We have an outpatient clinic in which we carry out assessments and provide guidance. We provide outpatient psychological treatment (CBT) for suitable patients.

For patients who have tried all the other available treatment and are still very affected by their symptoms we have a three week inpatient rehabilitation program:

Our inpatient program is “multidisciplinary” meaning it involves assessment and treatment from professionals with different expertise:

  • Nursing staff trained in physical and mental health
  • Psychological therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Psychiatry

Through 1:1 assessments with different professionals, and weekly team meetings involving the patients, we aim to get a good understanding of your symptoms, how they affect you and how you understand them.

Part of the assessment involves us getting to understand you as an individual, because these symptoms are complex and can be affected by lots of different aspects of a person’s history. We will challenge you to try different techniques and learn new skills, to enable you to manage your symptoms more effectively.

By the time the three weeks are over we hope that your symptoms will have improved, your ability to manage the activities of daily life will have improved, and you will have confidence that you can continue to recover at home.

Functional Neurological Symptoms