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Stigma and functional neurological disorder: a research agenda targeting the clinical encounter

Authors: MacDuffie KE, Grubbs L, Best T, LaRoche S, Mildon B , Myers L, Stafford E, Rommelfanger KS

Stigma against patients with functional neurological disorder (FND) presents obstacles to diagnosis, treatment, and research. The lack of biomarkers and the potential for symptoms to be misunderstood, invalidated, or dismissed can leave patients, families, and healthcare professionals at a loss. Stigma exacerbates suffering and unmet needs of patients and families, and can result in poor clinical management and prolonged, repetitive use of healthcare resources. Our current understanding of stigma in FND comes from surveys documenting frustration experienced by providers and distressing healthcare interactions experienced by patients. However, little is known about the origins of FND stigma, its prevalence across different healthcare contexts, its impact on patient health outcomes, and optimal methods for reduction. In this paper, we set forth a research agenda directed at better understanding the prevalence and context of stigma, clarifying its impact on patients and providers, and promoting best practices for stigma reduction.