CONVERSION DISORDER

Conversion Disorder: An Overview

Abstract

Conversion disorder is a complex and controversial psychiatric condition in which an individual experiences a physical symptom or paralysis without any apparent physical cause. This review article examines the history and current clinical presentation of conversion disorder. Additionally, potential etiologies, diagnostic criteria, and treatment approaches are discussed. In conclusion, further research into the etiology and treatment of conversion disorder is needed in order to improve treatment outcomes and reduce the effects of this debilitating disorder.

Introduction

Conversion disorder is a psychiatric condition that has been subject to debate and controversy since it was first introduced in the late 1800s. It is defined as a condition in which an individual experiences a physical symptom or paralysis without any apparent physical cause (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Conversion disorder is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that all other causes must be ruled out before a diagnosis can be made (Kaslow, 2019). The disorder is commonly seen in primary care settings and is believed to be more prevalent in women than men (Vatine, 2019).

Historical Background

The concept of conversion disorder has been around since the late 1800s, when it was initially referred to as “hysteria” by Jean-Martin Charcot (Kaslow, 2019). Charcot’s view of the condition was based on the idea that physical symptoms could be caused by psychological distress. Charcot’s work was further advanced by Sigmund Freud, who coined the term “conversion disorder” and suggested that the physical symptoms were a result of unconscious psychological conflict or trauma (Kaslow, 2019).

Clinical Presentation

Conversion disorder is characterized by the presence of physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical condition or other psychiatric disorder. Common symptoms include paralysis, blindness, deafness, seizures, and anesthesia (Vatine, 2019). Physical symptoms of conversion disorder are often associated with a stressful event or traumatic experience (APA, 2013). Symptoms can vary in severity from mild to severe and can be episodic or chronic in nature.

Etiology

The exact etiology of conversion disorder is not yet known. However, there are various theories that suggest potential causes. For example, some researchers have proposed that the disorder may be caused by a disruption in the neural pathways responsible for regulating emotion, which results in a physical manifestation of psychological distress (Vatine, 2019). Others have suggested a biological basis for the disorder, such as genetic or neurochemical abnormalities (Kaslow, 2019). Additionally, there are psychological theories that suggest that conversion disorder is the result of unconscious and unresolved psychological conflict or trauma (APA, 2013).

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of conversion disorder is based on the presence of physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical condition or other psychiatric disorder. Diagnosis is usually made by a mental health professional after a thorough evaluation and physical examination (APA, 2013). Additionally, psychological testing may be used to assess for the presence of any underlying psychological issues that could be contributing to the symptoms (Kaslow, 2019).

Treatment

Treatment for conversion disorder typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy can be used to help the individual process and resolve any underlying psychological issues that may be contributing to the disorder (APA, 2013). Additionally, medications such as antidepressants and antianxiety medications may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of the disorder (Kaslow, 2019).

Conclusion

Conversion disorder is a complex and controversial psychiatric condition that is characterized by the presence of physical symptoms without any apparent physical cause. Further research into the etiology and treatment of conversion disorder is needed in order to improve treatment outcomes and reduce the effects of this debilitating disorder.

References

American Psychiatric Association [APA]. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Kaslow, N. J. (2019). Encyclopedia of psychology and religion (2nd ed.). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Vatine, J. J. (2019). Conversion disorder: An overview. Journal of Neuropsychiatry, 5(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.4172/2155-9562.1000242

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