Insights into Chronic Functional Movement Disorders: The Value of Qualitative Psychiatric Interviews

Steven A. Epstein*, Carine W. Maurer, Kathrin LaFaver, Rezvan Ameli, Stephen Sinclair, Mark Hallett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background Patients with functional movement disorders (FMDs) are commonly seen by neurologists and psychosomatic medicine psychiatrists. Research literature provides scant information about the subjective experiences of individuals with this often chronic problem. Objective To enhance our understanding of psychologic aspects of FMDs by conducting qualitative interviews of research subjects. Methods In total, 36 patients with FMDs were recruited from the Human Motor Control clinic at the National Institutes of Health. Each subject participated in a qualitative psychiatric interview and a structured diagnostic psychiatric interview. Results Of our 36 subjects, 28 had current or lifetime psychiatric disorders in addition to conversion disorder and 22 had current disorders. Qualitative interviews provided rich information on patients’ understanding of their illnesses and impaired cognitive processing of emotions. Conclusion Our study supports the addition of open-ended qualitative interviews to delineate emotional dynamics and conceptual frameworks among such patients. Exploratory interviews generate enhanced understanding of such complex patients, above and beyond that gained by assessing DSM diagnostic comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-575
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • conversion disorder
  • functional movement disorder
  • interview
  • psychogenic movement disorder
  • qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology


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