South East Scotland Neurological Services

NHS Scotland

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Functional symptoms

Useful Links:








Functional and Dissociative Neurological Symptoms: A Patient's Guide







NHS Lothian


NHS Fife


NHS Forth Valley


NHS Dumfries and Galloway


NHS Borders





What are functional neurological symptoms?  


These are neurological symptoms such as weakness, numbness, blackouts or headaches which are due to a problem with the way that the nervous system functions rather than a disease or damage to the nervous system.    The symptoms are REAL and not imagined and can have a major impact.  


Functional symptoms are surprisingly common.  Around 15% of all patients seen in UK neurology clinics as a new patient have  symptoms that are diagnosed as functional or dissociative. Around 5% of all new outpatients have symptoms of weakness, blackouts or numbness that are functional / dissociative.  


However, very few people are familiar with functional symptoms and these symptoms can be difficult for many patient's and clinicians to understand.  One way of explaining functional symptoms is to think of the body as a computer, with functional systems being like a software problem - the way the system is operating,  as opposed to a hardware problem.



What services are available for people with functional symptoms?  


Many people with functional symptoms find that they can live with the problem once they have this diagnosis and are reassured that they do not have a diseased or damaged nervous system.  


For people for whom the impact of symptoms is major and who may need more time to understand their problems and how to manage them there is a specialist functional symptoms clinic.