Interoception skills in FND and the overlap with autism


Interoception skills in FND and the overlap with autism

Neurodiversity is a term that has gained popularity in recent years, referring to the idea that neurological differences should be recognised and respected as any other human variation. This includes conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. However, one group that is often overlooked in discussions of neurodiversity is those with functional neurological disorders (FND). FND is a condition where individuals experience neurological symptoms without a clear organic cause. In this blog article, we will explore the overlap between FND and autism, specifically in terms of interoception skills.

What is Interoception?

The Importance of Interoception

Interoception is the ability to sense and understand internal bodily sensations. This includes things like hunger, thirst, pain, and emotions. It is a crucial skill that allows us to regulate our bodies and emotions, make decisions, and understand the needs of others.

For individuals with FND, interoception can be impaired, leading to difficulties in regulating emotions and understanding bodily sensations. This can manifest in a variety of ways, such as chronic pain, difficulty recognising and expressing emotions, and difficulty understanding hunger and fullness cues.

The Overlap Between FND and Autism

While FND and autism are two distinct conditions, there is a growing body of research that suggests a significant overlap between the two. A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found that individuals with FND were more likely to have a history of autism or autistic traits compared to the general population.

Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that individuals with FND had significantly higher rates of alexithymia, a condition characterised by difficulty identifying and describing emotions, compared to the general population. This is a common trait in individuals with autism as well.

The Impact of Impaired Interoception in FND and Autism

Emotional Regulation

One of the most significant impacts of impaired interoception in both FND and autism is difficulty regulating emotions. Without a clear understanding of their internal bodily sensations, individuals may struggle to identify and express their emotions effectively. This can lead to difficulty managing stress and anxiety.

Sensory Processing

Sensory processing is another area that can be affected by impaired interoception. Sensory processing refers to how our brains interpret and respond to sensory information from our environment. For individuals with FND and autism, this can manifest in sensory sensitivities or difficulties with sensory integration.

For example, someone with FND may experience chronic pain without a clear cause, making it difficult to understand and manage their pain levels. Similarly, someone with autism may have difficulty processing sensory information, leading to sensory overload.

Social Interactions

Impaired interoception can also impact social interactions for individuals with FND and autism. Difficulty understanding and expressing emotions can make it challenging to connect with others and understand their needs. This can lead to social isolation and difficulties in relationships.

Strategies for Improving Interoception Skills

Mindfulness and Body Awareness

One way to improve interoception skills is through mindfulness and body awareness practices. These techniques involve paying attention to bodily sensations and emotions in the present moment. This can help individuals with FND and autism become more aware of their internal states and learn to regulate them more effectively.

Psychological Therapy and Support Groups

Psychological therapy and support groups can also be beneficial for individuals with FND and autism. These can provide a safe space to explore and understand emotions and bodily sensations, as well as learn coping strategies for managing them.

Sensory Integration using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

For individuals with sensory processing difficulties, sensory integration using techniques from CBT can be helpful. This type of therapy involves exposing individuals to sensory stimuli in a controlled and structured environment to help them learn to process and respond to sensory information more effectively.

Embracing Neurodiversity

The Importance of Acceptance and Understanding

As we continue to learn more about the overlap between FND and autism, it is essential to embrace neurodiversity and promote acceptance and understanding. Individuals with FND and autism may face stigma and discrimination due to their differences, and it is crucial to recognise and respect their unique experiences.


In conclusion, interoception skills are crucial for regulating emotions, understanding bodily sensations, and navigating social interactions. Individuals with FND and autism may experience impairments in interoception, leading to difficulties in these areas. By promoting acceptance and understanding and utilising strategies to improve interoception skills, we can support and empower individuals with FND and autism in their daily lives. Let’s continue to embrace neurodiversity and promote inclusivity for all.

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