Conversion Disorder

What is Conversion Disorder?

Conversion disorder is a neurological disorder that is composed of a wide range of symptoms. This condition causes the body to exhibit mental stress through physical means. This disorder usually starts out as an emotional crisis. Usually, it is brought on by a situation that is scary or stressful in nature. This emotional crisis converts into a physical issue.

An example of this disorder is when someone who falls from a height that scares them. Even though they are not physically injured in the accident, their leg may become paralyzed. In conversion disorder, the signs and symptoms exhibited do not have an underlying cause that can be explained, and the patient has no control over the symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of a Conversion Disorder?

The symptoms of conversion disorder appear suddenly. Usually, they appear after a stressful or traumatic event. This event can be physical or psychological. The emotional response to the event manifests into physical form.

Symptoms include

  • Weakness or paralysis in one or more of the extremities
  • Development of abnormal movement. This may include tremors and difficulty walking
  • Sudden loss of balance
  • Difficulty swallowing, accompanied by the feeling of having a lump in the throat
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Frequent episodes of being unresponsive
  • Loss of sensation or numbness to touch
  • Difficulty speaking, inability to speak, or slurred speech
  • Changes in vision, including double vision, blindness, or blurred vision
  • Sudden hearing problems or complete deafness

Conversion Disorder Causes

Scientists haven’t yet uncovered exactly what causes conversion disorder. However, it’s believed to develop when your brain needs a way to deal with emotional distress. The disorder is usually triggered by an incident involving a lot of mental stress, and the symptoms follow almost immediately after.

Women tend to get conversion disorder more than men. In people with a history of emotional distress, the condition is also much more likely to occur. This is especially true of people who are unable to talk about feelings easily.

In some cases, the physical symptoms that develop help the individual deal with some internal conflict. For instance, if you have been struggling not to hurt someone you feel threatened by, conversion disorder could cause paralysis in one or more of your limbs.

How is Conversion Disorder Treated?

In many cases, the symptoms of conversion disorder resolve on their own without medical interference. Patients typically recover faster after diagnostic testing and a doctor reassuring them that their symptoms are not caused by an injury. Some patients benefit from seeing a mental health professional to help resolve the fear or trauma that is associated with the incident that caused their symptoms in the first place.

There are a wide range of treatments available to patients who suffer from conversion disorder.

Treatment includes

  • Counseling
  • Physical therapy
  • Treatment of stress related conditions, such as anxiety.
  • Magnetic stimulation of the head.

Conversion disorder is more common than many patients think. Anyone who is exposed to a stressful or traumatic incident is at risk for developing this disorder.

Conversion Disorder Prevention

The main way to prevent conversion disorder is to make sure that you find healthy outlets for stress. When you can, avoid situations that are likely to lead to emotional trauma.

One preventive measure involves seeking treatment for emotional and mental trauma, such as depression. If you maintain a good work and life balance and create positive relationships, you will have an easier time dealing with stress, instead of bottling up your feelings. A secure, peaceful living situation is also preferable, and if you don’t have that in your current family dynamic, it might be time to consider some changes.

Some areas of your life are beyond your control and accepting that can be an important first step in avoiding emotional disorders. However, if you concentrate on managing the areas you can influence, it might help you accept those you can’t. On the other hand, any reductions you make in the level of stress and emotional distress should help you prevent conversion disorder.