Article ID: CBB778393839

Conversion Disorder and/or Functional Neurological Disorder: How Neurological Explanations Affect Ideas of Self, Agency, and Accountability (2020)


An estimated 15% of patients seen by neurologists have neurological symptoms, such as paralysis, tremors, dystonia, or seizures, that cannot be medically explained. For a long time, such patients were diagnosed as having conversion disorder (CD) and referred to psychiatrists, but for the last two decades or so, neurologists have started to pay more serious attention to this patient group. Instead of maintaining the commonly used label of conversion disorder – which refers to Freud’s idea that traumatic events can be converted into deviant behaviour – these neurologists use the term functional neurological disorder (FND) and explain that the problems are due to abnormal central nervous system functioning. The situation that some patients with medically unexplained neurological symptoms are diagnosed with CD and treated by psychiatrists while others are diagnosed with FND and stay under the control of neurologists provides a unique case for analysing how neurological and psychological explanations affect subjectivity. In this article, I compare patient reports from English-language websites from the past 15 years to find out how minds, bodies, brains, and selves act and interact in the accounts of both patient groups. I conclude that the change in label from CD to FND has not only influenced ideas of medically unexplained disorders, but also affected ideas of the self and the body; of self-control and accountability.

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Article Susanne Schregel; Tineke Broer (2020) Introduction: Contested Narratives of the Mind and the Brain: Neuro/Psychological Knowledge in Popular Debates and Everyday Life. History of the Human Sciences (pp. 3-11). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Holdorff, B.
Langer, Karen G.
Peng, Mu
Jennekens, Frans G. I.
Kurcgant, Daniela
Ayres, José Ricardo de Carvalho Mesquita
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Rutgers University
University of Durham (United Kingdom)
Cambridge University Press
Oxford University Press
New York University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Neurological diseases
Psychosomatic medicine
Spinoza, Baruch
Vygotskii, Lev Semenovich
Duchenne de Boulogne, Guillaume Benjamin
Mitscherlich, Alexander
Kraepelin, Emil
Martini, Paul
Berlin (Germany)
United States
21st century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
20th century
17th century

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