Conversion disorder is a mental condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation.
Functional neurological symptom disorder; Hysterical neurosis
Conversion disorder symptoms may occur because of a psychological conflict.
Symptoms usually begin suddenly after a stressful experience. People are at risk of conversion disorder if they also have:
People who have conversion disorder are not making up their symptoms in order to obtain shelter, for example (malingering). They are also not intentionally injuring themselves or lying about their symptoms just to become a patient (factitious disorder). Some health care providers falsely believe that conversion disorder is not a real condition and may tell people that the problem is all in their head. But this condition is real. It causes distress and cannot be turned on and off at will.
The physical symptoms are thought to be an attempt to resolve the conflict the person feels inside. For example, a woman who believes it is not acceptable to have violent feelings may suddenly feel numbness in her arms after becoming so angry that she wanted to hit someone. Instead of allowing herself to have violent thoughts about hitting someone, she experiences the physical symptom of numbness in her arms.
Symptoms of a conversion disorder include the loss of one or more bodily functions, such as:
Common signs of conversion disorder include:
Talk therapy and stress management training may help reduce symptoms.
The affected body part or physical function may need physical or occupational therapy until the symptoms go away. For example, a paralyzed arm must be exercised to keep the muscles strong.
William Lafrance is a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist in Providence, Rhode Island. Dr. Lafrance has been practicing medicine for over 27 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Conversion Disorder. He is also highly rated in 11 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Conversion Disorder, Seizures, Generalized Tonic-Clonic Seizure, and Epilepsy. He is licensed to treat patients in Rhode Island. Dr. Lafrance is currently accepting new patients.
David Perez is a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Perez has been practicing medicine for over 15 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Conversion Disorder. He is also highly rated in 9 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Conversion Disorder, Seizures, Camptocormism, and Generalized Tonic-Clonic Seizure. He is licensed to treat patients in Massachusetts. Dr. Perez is currently accepting new patients.
Jerzy Szaflarski is a Neurologist in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Szaflarski has been practicing medicine for over 31 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Conversion Disorder. He is also highly rated in 26 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Seizures, Epilepsy, Conversion Disorder, and Generalized Tonic-Clonic Seizure. He is licensed to treat patients in Indiana and Ohio. Dr. Szaflarski is currently accepting new patients.
Symptoms usually last for days to weeks and may suddenly go away. Usually the symptom itself is not life threatening, but complications can be debilitating.
See your provider or mental health professional if you or someone you know has symptoms of a conversion disorder.
Published Date: November 07, 2020
Published By: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
American Psychiatric Association. Conversion disorder (functional neurological symptom disorder). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013:318-321.
Cottencin O. Conversion disorders: psychiatric and psychotherapeutic aspects. Neurophysiol Clin. 2014;44(4):405-410. PMID: 25306080 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25306080/.
Gerstenblith TA, Kontos N. Somatic symptom disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 24.