Health Management Insight: Understanding Functional Disorders

Functional neurological disorders (or FNDs) are bodily symptoms which appear to be caused by problems in the nervous system, but which are not caused by a physical neurological disease or disorder.

They are, in fact, very common – around 1/3 of patients seen at NHS neurology clinics have a functional disorder. Yet public knowledge about FNDs is limited, and very little guidance is available to employers aiming to support staff with these difficulties. 

How functional neurological disorders are experienced  

Functional disorders can vary widely in their impact, ranging from mild symptoms and no associated disability, through to severe symptoms and marked disability. So a diagnosis of an FND can be challenging for both employee and employer.

Symptoms may include pain, fatigue, limb weakness, numbness, shaking or blackouts, along with gastrointestinal or cardiac symptoms. 

The diagnosis with a functional disorder can be frustrating as these disorders are yet to be explained by a recognised disease and investigations of the symptoms usually yield 'normal' results.

However, these are recognised within the spectrum of mental disorders and are not 'imagined', and the difficulties for the person experiencing them are certainly real.

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