Living with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) can feel confusing and scary. There are not always clear answers and it may feel difficult to get the support you need from health care providers or loved ones. This article is for anyone struggling with FND or for anyone who wants to better understand the condition. For those who have received a diagnosis of FND, you may still be looking for answers and unsure of how to move towards healing. The first thing that is important to acknowledge is that your symptoms are real. Although functional neurological disorder does not indicate any abnormalities in the brain, the way your nervous system functions and is able to respond is very much compromised. While there are things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms – just like anyone who suffers from a medical or mental condition – it is not something you are making up or have caused. Part of the battle is honoring your symptoms by taking them seriously.
This article cannot detail necessary treatment from a medical perspective, but research has shown that psychotherapy is effective in lessening symptoms caused by functional neurological disorder. This does not mean that you are crazy or that your neurological symptoms are somehow your fault. When something in our system is not regulating as it should be, we must treat it holistically. Regardless of one’s diagnosis, engaging in psychotherapy can help create space in your body and mind to navigate everything that is thrown its way. Meeting with a therapist can help you better understand your body, your triggers, and how you can move through the world in a way that works for you given your current reality.
Most people who have finally received the diagnosis of FND have been searching for answers for a long time. It’s likely that you have gone through many doctors and misdiagnoses. There is a particular brand of suffering that comes along with not knowing; the journey towards a diagnosis can be arduous, isolating, and even traumatic for some. Working with a therapist can help you process through your experiences and how they have shaped your understanding of self, illness, and what it means to be whole.
As humans, we want to understand ourselves and understand what we’re dealing with. Once we can conceptualize what’s happening in our body, it is easier to move towards acceptance. It’s difficult to get to a place of managing if we are constantly in a state of dissecting and playing detective. For folks with functional neurological disorder, a lot of emotional and mental energy can be spent trying to figure out what’s happening, especially in the beginning stages. Once we have a name and some understanding of how FND works, extra space may be created in the brain to actually begin managing symptoms and improving quality of life. How can I live in the world given these realities, symptoms, triggers, and limitations?
Here are a list of things you can explore with your therapist as it relates to FND:
- What does it look like to believe myself? To trust your own experience of your body? In what ways have others failed in you in this area and how has that impacted your own experience of your body/symptoms? It is very distressing to not be believed, especially when we are in pain. It can cause us to doubt our pain and make it difficult to accept where we are. After receiving a diagnosis, there may be relief, but there may also be residual feelings of hurt or mistrust because of the process that folks with FND often go through. Therapy can help uncover some of the ways we doubt ourselves and what our body is trying to tell us.
- What triggers my symptoms? Once we identify what some of the barriers are to believing ourselves, we can pay attention to the signs and symptoms of our body with reverence. What makes me feel worse or better? For people struggling with functional neurological disorder, chronic pain can begin to feel like one confusing foggy mess. What pain is coming from where? What is triggering this or that? It can be difficult to parse through, especially if symptoms are non-specific or not consistent. For this reason, it can be very useful to articulate to someone else what your experience is from week-to-week. You can begin to notice patterns and even write down what you are experiencing on a daily basis if it helps to provide clarity. Paying attention to your body and its triggers is a skill that can be developed. The goal is not to make you hyper-focused on your body or your symptoms, because that would be counter-productive. The goal is for body awareness to lead to more effective self-care and symptom management.
- What does my body need? Once you are able to identity triggers, you can begin to plan for how to respond to your triggers. We cannot always control our environment or our body’s response, so what happens when my symptoms start to flare? We cannot listen and respond to our body if we are busy shaming ourselves for an experience of pain. So first, honor your experience. Then you can ask, what does my body need right now? Again, this can feel tricky because you might not always know, especially if you have grown accustomed to dismissing your pain. But here are some simple questions you can ask: Do I need rest? Food? Hydration? Do I need extra support walking? Do I need to remove myself from this environment or situation? Do you need to cut down your hours at work or stop working entirely? What kind of boundaries or life adjustments do I need to make in order to adequately care for myself? There is no right answer to this and may take some trial and error to really figure out what it is that you need to live your fullest life possible.
- What does a supportive team look like for me? You cannot go this road alone. It’s important to have a doctor that you respect and who treats you with you care. It’s also important that your family and friends do their best to understand your condition and your needs? If you are not feeling supported by your current doctors, you may consider switching doctors or practices. Working with a therapist can help clarify your experience, your care needs, and can help you articulate your symptoms to health care providers.
Together with your therapist, you can work to identify barriers to believing yourself, better understand triggers and treatment options, move towards greater acceptance, process current medical treatment, and implement a self-care plan.
Lastly, here are some affirmations that you can repeat everyday that may empower you on your journey with FND:
- My experience is real and my pain matters
- My limitations do not define me
- I am worthy of good care and supportive relationships
- There are ways of managing my symptoms that will allow me to live a full life
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with a therapist who works with FND, You can self schedule an in-person or virtual couples therapy session at the Center for Growth by calling (215) 922-5683 x 100.
For your convenience we have 5 physical therapy and counseling offices and provide virtual therapy services in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Virginia.
Ocean City Therapy Office
360 West Ave, Floor 1, Ocean City, NJ 08226
Mechanicsville Therapy Office
9044 Mann Drive, Mechanicsville Virginia, 23116
Society Hill Therapy Office
233 S. 6th Street, C-33, Philadelphia PA 19106
Art Museum / Fairmount Therapy Office
2401 Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 1a2, Philadelphia PA 19130
Santa Fe Therapy Office, 2204 B Brothers Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505
Telemedicine: We have therapists who are licensed to work in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia New Mexico and Pennsylvania
Therapy Services Offered in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe:
Individual Counseling and therapy
Couples Counseling and marriage counseling
Teen Therapy and Adolescent Therapy and tweens and child counseling
Family Therapy and multi-generational counseling
Art Therapy and Counseling no art skills needed
ADHD Therapyand ADD, Dyslexia, Autism, Tourettes counseling
Anxiety, Panic, OCD Therapy and worry and fear support
Breaking the cycle of Codependency and being your own person
Overcoming Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain .
Depression Therapy and sadness, gloom, and upset support
- Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) Therapy is a particular style of therapy designed for people with problems affecting their nervous system, how the brain and body send and receive signals.
Grief Therapy and loss, End of A Relationship, rejections, pregnancy and loss and therapy
Mindfulness Based Therapy and spirituality based therapy
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery child of, parent of, spouse of, sibling of a narcissist.
Sex Therapy and sexual function & dysfunction, sex addiction, sexual orientation and gender identity support
Trauma Therapy both emotional and sexual abuse, complex trauma, PTSD counseling
Affairs, Infidelity, Unfaithful, Cheating counseling
Personality disorder treatments Narcissist, Borderline, Histrionic
After we wrote our article on Functional Neurological Disorder Therapy, we thought we would have some fun by comparing our human driven answer to artificial intelligence. Here is what the computer wrote . . .
Functional Neurological Disorder (FND)
Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) is a condition in which a person experiences neurological symptoms, such as weakness, tremors, or difficulty with coordination and balance, but there is no identifiable structural or physiological cause. These symptoms can be similar to those seen in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, or a stroke, but they are not caused by an underlying disease or injury.
FND is thought to be related to problems with the way the brain processes information, rather than a problem with the brain itself. Some experts believe that FND is related to psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety or depression.
The diagnosis of FND is often made after other medical conditions have been ruled out through extensive testing. Treatment for FND typically involves a combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or psychotherapy.
CBT can help patients to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be affecting their symptoms. It can also help to develop coping strategies for the symptoms.
Physical therapy can help the patient to improve their mobility, balance and coordination. Occupational therapy can help to improve their ability to complete daily activities and regain independence.
It is also important for patients to have a support network, including family and friends, who can provide emotional support and encouragement.
FND is a complex condition and treatment can be challenging. It is important for patients to have access to a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals who can work together to provide the best possible care and support.
Functional Neurological Disorder Mental Health Counseling:
Mental health counseling can be an important aspect of treatment for functional neurological disorder (FND). As FND is believed to be related to psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety or depression, addressing these underlying emotional and psychological issues can be crucial in managing the symptoms.
A mental health counselor can help individuals with FND to cope with the emotional and psychological impact of the condition, and develop strategies to manage the symptoms. Counseling can also help individuals to build resilience, improve communication and relationships with loved ones, and develop a sense of control over their lives.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used therapies for FND. It can help to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be affecting symptoms, and develop coping strategies for the symptoms.
Other therapies that may be used include:
- Mindfulness-based therapies: can help to reduce stress and improve mood.
- Group therapy: can provide support, encouragement, and a sense of community for people living with FND.
- Couples therapy and/or family therapy: can help to improve communication and strengthen relationships
It is important for people living with FND to have access to mental health counseling as part of their care plan. This will help them to manage the emotional and psychological impact of the condition, and improve the overall quality of life.
It's also important to note that FND is not well understood condition and the treatment and management is still ongoing research. It's important to work with a medical professional that has experience with FND, as the treatment can be challenging.