Nonepileptic attack disorder and functional movement disorder: A clinical continuum?

Mohammad Amir Rather, Andrea E Cavanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonepileptic attack disorder (NEAD) and functional movement disorder (FMD) are functional neurological disorders commonly seen in neuropsychiatry services. Although their initial referral pathways involve epileptologists (NEAD) and specialists in movement disorders (FMD), these conditions are currently classified as two possible manifestations of a single underlying conversion disorder. We set out to compare the characteristics of patients with NEAD and patients with FMD in order to quantify the degree of overlap between these patient groups. We retrospectively reviewed comprehensive clinical data from 146 consecutive patients with functional neurological disorders (NEAD: n = 117; FMD: n = 29) attending a specialist Neuropsychiatry Clinic run by a single Consultant in Behavioral Neurology. The two clinical groups were directly compared with regard to demographic and clinical characteristics, as well as somatic and psychiatric presentations. The results showed that in most features, there were no significant differences between patients with NEAD and patients with FMD. However, patients with NEAD reported an earlier age at onset (p = 0.033) and a higher proportion of acute onset (p = 0.037), alterations of consciousness (p = 0.001), and headache (p = 0.042), whereas patients with FMD reported a higher prevalence of childhood abuse (p = 0.008), as well as mobility problems (p = 0.007) and comorbid functional symptoms (dysarthria, p = 0.004; dizziness, p = 0.035; weakness, p = 0.049). Despite different phenotypic presentations, NEAD and FMD might represent a clinical continuum, with relevant implications in terms of both diagnostic strategies and treatment approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107028
JournalEpilepsy & Behavior
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Adult
  • Conversion Disorder/diagnosis
  • Disease Progression
  • Dissociative Disorders/diagnosis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement Disorders/diagnosis
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders/diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures/diagnosis


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