Functional and Dissociative Neurological Symptoms : a patient's guide

Hemi

Psychology? I'm not crazy

So why should I want to see a psychologist / psychiatrist?... ...

Many people with functional symptoms do not need the extra assistance of a psychologist or psychiatrist. But your doctor may have suggested this and you may wonder why, when your problem is a neurological one like a weak leg or blackouts.

A common, and reasonable, question is, "How can talking about it actually help my symptoms?"

These are the common ways in which "talking about it" can help:

1. Being able to spend longer understanding the nature of your condition - eg that it is common, not your fault, not imagined, not due to disease but a potentially reversible problem with the function of your nervous system. It can take a long time to get your head around that, a psychologist can help you to do it

2. Talking about behaviours that might be getting in the way of your recovery - eg if you have chronic back pain and weak leg you may have pain which is worse on exercise. You may have been avoiding moving your back because you fear that you may be damaging your back further. By understanding you are making the pain temporarily worse but not damaging your back, this can help you experiment with moving your back more.

3. Talking about thoughts that are getting in the way of recovery - eg. someone with dissociative seizures may find that they become really worried about whether they are going to have another attack. The more they anticipate the attack, for example in a supermarket or walking down stairs, the more likely it is to occur.

4.Identifying feelings of low mood and worry. - eg your symptoms may have been going on for some time. You may have developed feelings of depression , anxiety or panic attacks. Less commonly other symptoms may be present like post-traumatic symptoms, obsessive thoughts or eating problems.

5. Problem solving - many of lifes problems don't have easy solutions. But some everyday hassles, like how to solve debt problems, or how to get help for a child who is being bullied may have solutions that you hadn't thought of. One less problem on the list can help things overall

If you put these all together then you may be surprised how helpful 'talking about it' can be.

Psychologists and psychiatrists vary a lot in their approach. You may need to talk to your family doctor or neurologist about who might be most helpful to see