Treatment will depend on your type of functional neurologic disorder and your particular signs and symptoms. For some people, a multispecialty team approach that includes a neurologist; psychiatrist or other mental health professional; speech, physical and occupational therapists; or others may be appropriate.
Learning about functional neurologic disorders
Understanding what functional neurologic disorders are, that the symptoms are real and that improvement is possible can help you with treatment choices and recovery. Symptoms may get better after an explanation of the condition and reassurance from your doctor that symptoms aren't caused by a serious underlying neurological or medical problem.
For some people, education and reassurance that they don't have a serious medical problem is the most effective treatment. For others, additional treatments may be beneficial. Involving loved ones can be helpful so that they can understand and support you.
Medical disorder treatment
Your medical team provides treatment of any medical or neurological disease you may have that might be a trigger for your symptoms.
Depending on your needs, therapies may include:
- Physical or occupational therapy. Working with a physical or occupational therapist may improve movement symptoms and prevent complications. For example, regular movement of arms or legs may ward off muscle tightness and weakness if you have paralysis or loss of mobility. Gradual increases in exercise may improve your ability to function.
- Speech therapy. If your symptoms include problems with speech or swallowing, working with a speech therapist (speech-language pathologist) may help.
- Stress reduction or distraction techniques. Stress reduction techniques can include methods such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, physical activity and exercise. Distraction techniques can include music, talking to another person, or deliberately changing the way you walk or move.
Mental health options
Even though functional neurological symptoms are not "all in your head," emotions and the way you think about things can have an impact on your symptoms and your recovery. Psychiatric treatment options may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A type of psychotherapy, CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so that you can view situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. CBT can also help you learn how to better manage stressful life situations and symptoms. This may be particularly beneficial if your symptoms include nonepileptic seizures. Other types of psychotherapy may be helpful if you have interpersonal problems or a history of trauma or abuse.
- Treating other mental health conditions. Anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders can worsen symptoms of functional neurologic disorders. Treating mental health conditions along with functional neurologic disorders can help recovery.
- Hypnosis. When done by a trained professional who is familiar with functional neurologic disorders, people who are receptive to suggestions during hypnosis may benefit if they have symptoms of a functional neurologic disorder that involve, for example, the loss of sensations or speech problems.
Medications are not effective for functional neurologic disorders, and no drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically as a treatment. However, medications such as antidepressants may be helpful if you also have depression or other mood disorders, or you're having pain or insomnia.
Regular follow-up with your medical team is important to monitor your recovery and make changes to your treatment plan as needed.