October 3, 2023


Functional Neurological Disorders (FND), also known as conversion disorders, manifest as neurological symptoms without a clear organic cause identifiable by standard neurological investigations. These disorders can encompass a broad range of presentations, including non-epileptic seizures, movement disorders, sensory symptoms, and gait disorders. Over the years, researchers have proposed that certain personality traits might predispose individuals to develop FND. This article aims to explore the relationship between personality traits and FND, providing an overview of current research in this area.

The Interface of Personality Traits and FND:

Previous studies have suggested that personality traits, specifically those associated with neuroticism, may be more prevalent in individuals with FND. Neuroticism, characterized by emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, and a propensity towards negative emotional states, has been found to be more common in FND patients compared to healthy controls.

However, it is crucial to highlight that having a neurotic personality does not predetermine the development of FND. Rather, it is one factor among many, including genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and psychological stressors, that may contribute to the emergence of the disorder.

Another trait often linked with FND is alexithymia, defined as difficulty in identifying and describing feelings. Some research indicates that alexithymia might be associated with FND, suggesting that individuals who struggle to express emotions may be more likely to convert psychological distress into physical symptoms.

Personality Traits as a Therapeutic Target:

Understanding the personality traits associated with FND can have important implications for treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), currently one of the most effective interventions for FND, could potentially be tailored to address these specific traits. For example, for patients with high neuroticism, strategies might focus on emotional regulation skills. In those with alexithymia, therapy could help improve emotional awareness and expression.

However, it’s important to note that while modifying personality traits can be challenging, it’s not the sole focus of FND treatment. Therapy should also aim to alleviate symptoms, improve functional abilities, and address any co-existing psychological issues such as anxiety or depression.

Conclusions and Future Directions:

While the association between personality traits and FND is becoming increasingly recognized, much is yet to be uncovered. It’s essential to approach this topic with sensitivity, considering the risk of stigmatization. Having certain personality traits should not be viewed as a personal failing or weakness but rather as one piece of the complex puzzle that constitutes FND.

Future research should aim to further elucidate the role of personality traits in FND, examining how these traits might interact with other risk factors. Longitudinal studies could be particularly valuable in this respect, shedding light on whether personality traits act as predictors or consequences of the disorder. Through improving our understanding of these relationships, we can pave the way towards more personalized and effective treatments for individuals with FND.

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