Functional neurological disorder

Functional neurological disorder (FND) is a condition in which there is a problem with the functioning of the nervous system. It is not actually a physical problem, but it affects how the brain and body sends and/or receives signals. When tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are performed on the patient, no physical disease is found.


It is seen fairly frequently in Neurology departments all over the world and in this country, the figure is approximately 16% (ResearchGate).  

What are the symptoms of FND?

The symptoms of functional neurological disorder can include:

  • non-epileptic seizures
  • weakness
  • blindness
  • spasms
  • blackouts and sensory difficulties

Other conditions similar to FND are:

  • non-epileptic seizures
  • somatisation disease
  • conversion illness (where the stress in the body gets converted into physical symptoms, first described by the Psychologist Freud).    

Freud was one of the first psychologists to note that trauma could cause 'hysteria' or physical symptoms. It is believed that FND can be the result of some sort of trauma, whether this is from an accident or emotional trauma. The trauma has then caused the nervous system to somehow function incorrectly. The diagnosis can be very upsetting for the sufferer as they can be left feeling that no one believes them, or that it is all in their head. Of course, this is not true at all and the symptoms of FND are very real and debilitating. 

Why does trauma cause these symptoms? 

In Bessel Van Der Kolk's book, The Body Keeps the Score, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is explained as being caused by an incident of danger where we feel we cannot escape or express fight or flight. The fight or flight energy can get trapped in the body, consequently causing chronic symptoms. Situations that may cause us to feel trapped or have no control can be rape, an accident, seeing a relative die or suffer, childhood traumas, humiliation (as children we can't escape this) - the list is considerable.

Getting help for FND

Treatment, unfortunately, is limited in the NHS due to a lack of research and money available for treatments like psychological therapies and physiotherapy. Waiting lists are long and there are not many specialist FND departments around the country. The FND departments that do exist have very long waiting lists.

In a cash-strapped NHS, sufferers may look to private treatments for help. Treatments that can help FND are hypnotherapy and Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).

Hypnotherapy can help by releasing the trauma from the mind and body and by training the subconscious to think in a more positive and outward-focused way. It is very useful in hypnotherapy to have the client see themselves well and without symptoms. As the mind cannot tell the difference between something imagined and real, which has been scientifically proven through the use of MRI scans, the mind and body can learn new ways of doing things this way.

EMDR is a highly researched treatment for PTSD. Used in conjunction with hypnotherapy it can integrate memories of the trauma or traumas that are the cause of the FND, and help the mind and body to learn that the trauma is gone and in the past and they are safe now. Returning the body and mind to a safe and calm place – consequently returning the nervous system to normal functioning too.  

If you are trying to manage the symptoms of FND then working with a hypnotherapist may be of benefit to you. You can search Hypnotherapy Directory to find a qualified therapist and arrange an initial consultation. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Warrington WA4 & Malpas SY14
Written by Dawn Reynolds-Smith, Adult/Child Advanced Cl. Hypnotherapist, EMDR. FREE 15 min
Warrington WA4 & Malpas SY14

Dawn is an advanced Child and Adult EMDR, Hypnotherapist, Mindfulness teacher in Warrington and Liverpool. She previously worked in the NHS and has appeared on TV and radio as well as featuring in a national newspaper. Dawn also mentors and trains other Hypnotherapists. She receives referrals from the NHS and CAMHS.

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