Conversion disorder (A complete guide)

What is a conversion disorder?

Conversion disorder is a condition wherein you have physical symptoms of a medical issue but no injury or disease to clarify them. 

For instance, envision taking a hard fall off your bicycle and afterward not being able to move your arm.

Be that as it may, your arm is not harmed. Nor is some other part of your body.

Your body changed over the intense worry of your fall into the physical reaction of an incapacitated arm.

It may appear to be odd, yet your side effects are real, and you cannot control them. 

Specialists categorize conversion disorder in a more extensive class of diseases called functional neurologic issues.

What are the Causes of Conversion disorder?

The specific cause of conversion disorder is not entirely known. Some researchers think that conversion disorder is a normal occurrence after physical or mental stressors.

It might be that after-effects of trauma in some people cause them to create a physical outlet for the worry in their lives.

In other cases, some people do not appear to have a stressor that is causing the effects.

In these cases, the reason for conversion disorder is unknown. 

Studies into the mechanisms underlying conversion disorder have demonstrated that certain people have increased or decreased blood flow to specific brain regions.

If regions of the brain that are connected to body parts have decreased blood flow, this may cause neurological issues related to conversion disorder.

It is conceivable that these alterations in blood flow might be brought about by the brain processing data about physical or emotional stressors.

Regardless of the reason for the stressors, remember that the symptoms are real; affected people are not faking the symptoms of the disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Conversion disorder?

Conversion disorder symptoms can include: 

♦   Trouble walking 

♦   Loss of balance

♦   Body tremors 

♦   Difficulty moving 

♦   Hearing trouble 

♦   Vision issues 

♦   Loss of sensation in certain body parts

♦   Difficulty swallowing 

♦   Seizures or shaking instances  

♦   Lethargy 

To get a diagnosis of conversion disorder, the symptoms cannot be attributed to any other illness, and they must interfere with a person’s daily functioning and relationships.  

Because of technology like EEG and other neuropsychological devices, conversion disorder has gotten easier to diagnose in the last decade.

As indicated by the DSM-5, conversion disorder can have effects including weakness or paralysis, abnormal movement, swallowing difficulties, speech difficulties, seizures, anesthesia or sensory loss, or other sensory symptoms.

Conversion disorder can also occur as persistent or in the form of an acute episode.

Conversion disorder is ordinarily analyzed by a neurologist or a psychological counselor.

They may perform a physical assessment as well as a mental assessment to decide if you meet the diagnostic criteria. 

It is common for a person with conversion disorder to also have a co-occurring mental health condition.

This might include a mood disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), somatic disorders, and personality disorders.

Depression is the most common co-occurring diagnosis for people with conversion disorder who experience non-epileptic seizures.

What are the treatments for conversion disorder?

Since the symptoms of every patient with conversion disorder are different, medication regimens must be tailored to every individual patient.

Specialists from numerous areas can be involved with developing a treatment plan.

These can include neurologists, physiotherapists (to help with muscle spasms or tremors), and physical and speech therapists.  

As the patient, the initial step to getting the most out of your treatment plan is to understand your diagnosis.

Although it is encouraging to find out that your symptoms are not due to a rare neurological issue, it is still important to understand what conversion disorder is and how you will be treated for it. 

The neurological and physical examinations that you went through probably showed no actual nerve damage.

Request that your doctor further clarify these tests. The more you understand about your condition, the more likely that treatment will be a success. 

A significant part of treatment is “retraining the brain.”

Since the sensory system is unharmed and the issue is in the communication between the mind and nerves, the objective of treatment is to relearn certain things. Some useful therapies include: 

♦   Psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves learning about the disorder, recognizing triggers and symptoms, and learning new ways to respond and control them.

♦   Hypnosis

♦   Stress management counseling to make symptoms more manageable

♦   Physical therapy for weak limbs, walking problems, other movement problems

♦   Occupational therapy

♦   Speech therapy

♦   Medications to treat the medical conditions that may co-exist in patients affected with conversion disorder

How can I help a Family member/Friends/loved one with conversion disorder?

If you have a friend or family member suffering from conversion disorder side symptoms, it is essential to trust them and not blame them for faking their symptoms.

These symptoms are real, regardless of whether their origin is not completely understood.

Know that at first, your loved one may encounter disappointment and emotional distress when they are told by their neurologist or primary care physician specialist that their symptoms are not due to a particular neurological disease or other illness.

Promise them that you understand that their symptoms are genuine and that you are focused on helping them find the experts who can assess and treat their condition. 

If you think you may have conversion disorder, discuss your symptoms with your primary care physician.

Make a list of your side effects, any family history that may be applicable, and questions that you have for your primary care physician.

Ask them whether they think a referral to a neurologist is the next step and whether they suggest some other specialists for a formal diagnosis.

You are entitled to be educated about the most recent research and treatments for your condition, so do your best to get as much information as possible about the disorder from your doctors or other specialists. 

You can also ask your primary care physician if they can give you referrals to therapists and psychological counselors who have considerable experience in treating or working with people who have conversion disorder. 

Since conversion disorder is a lesser-known condition, it is imperative to be understanding and patient when working with specialists.

It may take two or three meetings or discussions to find the right group of people who are devoted to helping you improve your symptoms. 

Some Myths About Conversion disorder

Ø  You are Faking Conversion Disorder

Very regularly individuals who are dealing with conversion disorder are told they are faking it.

Those who tell people that they are faking should have more empathy for people suffering with conversion disorder symptoms. 

Ø   It is All In Your Head 

While the neural pathways, neurons, and thoughts in our mind do play a significant role in conversion disorder, these things are all connected to our physical symptoms.

What occurs in the mind, even in a subconscious state can manifest itself in the body as a physical phenomenon.

We as humans experience difficult things throughout everyday life, but when these experiences become so profound, they can wreak havoc on our bodies.

They affect us in a substantial way regardless of whether or not we can visually see them.. 

Ø   Trauma Is Not Needed For Conversion Disorder 

Trauma is different for everyone.

Someone coming back from fighting in a war has had a different experience than someone who saw a puppy get hit by a car but did not see a war.

We all see life through our own lens. 

Ø   You Have To Live With Conversion Disorder 

People with conversion disorder are sometimes told that they will need to take medication or go through therapy their entire life.

This is not necessarily true.  People with conversion disorder can go on living normal lives.  

Ø   I’m Not Strong Enough 

Something that Conversion Disorder does to us, is it removes all your trust in your own body.

At the point when you cannot trust in your body to walk, talk, and prevent seizures or other conditions, it is difficult to see yourself overcoming this.

Your body working properly is a fundamental part of life and self-assurance.

When these things have been taken away from you, it is definitely not an easy thing.

One specialist said to a person with conversion disorder that in the event that they could have given him or her a dose of “self-assurance”, he or she would most likely have shown signs of improvement a lot faster.

If you are suffering from conversion disorder, know that you can overcome this with the right specialists and treatment plan. 

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about conversion disorder:

1.    What are the symptoms of conversion disorder?

Some of the symptoms of conversion disorder include the following: 

-Weakness

-Paralysis of arms or legs

-Loss of balance

-Seizures sometimes with limited consciousness

-Difficulty swallowing

-Feeling a lump in the throat

-Shakes and tremors

2.    Is conversion disorder a mental illness?

Yes, conversion disorder is a mental illness.

People with conversion disorder may experience blindness, paralysis, or other neurological ailment that cannot be explained by any other medical condition. 

3.    How do you get conversion disorder?

Conversion disorder is usually caused by an extreme stressor such as trauma (physical or emotional) or depression.

It is a response by your body to something that is perceived as a threat.

The physical symptoms may manifest as a way to try and resolve whatever is causing extreme mental stress. 

4.    Is conversion disorder temporary? 

Conversion disorder is a psychiatric condition where a person develops uncontrolled physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a neurological disease or other medical condition.

These symptoms can be temporary or can last for long periods of time. 

5.    Who is at risk for developing conversion disorder? 

Women have a higher risk of developing conversion disorder compared to men.

Having a mental condition such as mood or anxiety disorders, dissociative identity disorder, or other personality disorders also increase the risk of developing conversion disorder. 

In this blog, we discussed the signs and symptoms of conversion disorder and typical treatment options. 

Want to learn more about conversion disorder? Try these recommended readings!

Conversion Disorder: Listening to the Body in Psychoanalysis

This book by James Webster is a clinical case and theoretical investigation all in one. It discusses the cultural implications of conversion disorder. 

Overcoming Functional Neurological Symptoms: A Five Areas Approach

This book uses strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help people who are experiencing a wide range of unexplained neurological symptoms. It is designed for specialists to share with their patients.

Professor Christopher Williams and his colleagues give advice on how families and friends of patients should support their loved one during this time.

It also contains therapeutic advice that has been proven to work through years of research and medical practice. 

References

Conversion Disorder. Psychology Today. November 8th, 2017. 

Functional neurologic disorders/conversion disorder. Mayo Clinic. October 5th, 2019. 

Conversion Disorder. WebMD. 2020 

Conversion Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment. Psycom.net. 2020 

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