Conversion disorder is when stress causes problems with the nervous system. Treatment may help.
The exact cause of conversion disorder is not clear. It often happens after a stressful or traumatic event. Mental tension may lead to nervous system problems. One example of this a person who loses their voice because they are afraid to speak.
This problem often starts in children aged 10 to 15 years. It may also start in older adults with severe health problems.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms vary. A person with conversion disorder may have:
- Balance problems
- A paralyzed arm or leg
- Lost feeling in a part of the body
- Problems seeing, hearing, speaking, or swallowing
- No feelings of pain
- Tingling or crawling feelings
An emotional event may trigger physical symptoms.
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The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests will be done to rule out other problems. This may be enough to diagnose conversion disorder.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- ECG—to test heart activity
- EEG—to test brain activity
- Imaging tests, such as x-rays or brain scans
Psychological and nerve tests may also be done.
Conversion disorder may go away on its own in some people.
Others may need therapy. One method is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It helps people learn to cope with stress.
Physical therapy may also be needed to build muscle strength and relearn daily tasks.
There are no known guidelines to prevent conversion disorder.
- Conversion disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/conversion-disorder.
- Functional neurological symptom disorder (conversion disorder). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/somatic-symptom-and-related-disorders/functional-neurological-symptom-disorder?autoredirectid=19532.
- Feinstein A. Conversion Disorder. Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2018;24(3, BEHAVIORAL NEUROLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY):861-872.
- Functional neurological disorder. NORD—National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/fnd.
- Adrian Preda, MD
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