A practical review of functional neurological disorder (FND) for the general physician

Clin Med (Lond). 2021 Jan;21(1):28-36. doi: 10.7861/clinmed.2020-0987.


We present a practical overview of functional neurological disorder (FND), its epidemiology, assessment and diagnosis, diagnostic pitfalls, treatment, aetiology and mechanism. We present an update on functional limb weakness, tremor, dystonia and other abnormal movements, dissociative seizures, functional cognitive symptoms and urinary retention, and 'scan-negative' cauda equina syndrome. The diagnosis of FND should rest on clear positive evidence, typically from a combination of physical signs on examination or the nature of seizures. In treatment of FND, clear communication of the diagnosis and the involvement of the multidisciplinary team is beneficial. We recommend that patients with FND are referred to specialists with expertise in neurological diagnosis. FND is a common presentation in emergency and acute medical settings and there are many practical elements to making a positive diagnosis and communication which are useful for all physicians to be familiar with.

Keywords: conversion disorder; dissociative seizures,; functional neurological disorder; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conversion Disorder*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • General Practitioners*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Nervous System Diseases* / therapy
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / therapy
  • Tremor