Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) is often described as a malfunction of the central nervous system, meaning that the brain doesn’t send / receive messages as it should, which then results in a myriad of symptoms. A model that is easy to think about is comparing our brain to a computer – occasionally a computer totally shuts down or doesn’t work properly. This is not because there is anything structurally wrong, but because the software has malfunctioned. To rectify the problem, you need to turn the computer off, and re-boot. FND is similar, in that it is the brain signalling that has gone wrong: as far as we know there isn’t anything structurally wrong. Many issues can be rectified given work and time.
The symptoms that are listed under FND can range from mobility issues, sight problems, chronic pain and more. There are also other diagnoses that are also thought to be functional such as IBS, restless legs, CFS/ME and more. For more specific medical information about specific symptoms please see the neurosymptoms.org website, which has been written by Dr Jon Stone, a neurologist based in Edinburgh with a specific interest in FND. There are also good descriptions about the illness, people’s experiences, and fact sheets on the FND Action website.
FND is thought to be as common as Multiple Schlerosis. Approximately one in four people in a neurology outpatient clinic end up with a functional diagnosis of some kind (XXXX). However very few people are thought to know anything about the diagnosis. This is something that several groups are working hard to change: FND Action held an awareness day on the 25th March 2017, whilst FND Hope UK held a separate awareness day on the 13th April. FND Hope UK has also been circulating a letter to be sent to our MP’s, and there is a petition circulating to ask parliament to bring FND to the attention of the government, thus raising the profile of the disorder. FND Action has also written a number of documents that help in situations such as when an ambulance has been called to someone having a Non-Epileptic Attack (NEAD).