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Conversion Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is conversion disorder?

Conversion disorder is a condition that causes you to have symptoms of nerve problems you cannot control. It may also be called functional neurologic symptom disorder. The nerve problems are not caused by a medical condition. A stressful or traumatic event usually triggers these problems. Your risk for conversion disorder is higher if you have depression, an anxiety disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What are the signs and symptoms of conversion disorder?

  • Numbness or loss of feeling in a body area
  • Blindness or tunnel vision
  • Hearing problems or deafness
  • Not being able to speak
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Tremors or jerking motions you cannot control
  • Seizures or spells
  • Trouble walking

How is conversion disorder diagnosed?

Conversion disorder can cause symptoms that look like a medical emergency, such as a stroke or paralysis. Your healthcare provider will check you for a medical condition that could be causing your symptoms. The tests you may need will depend on your symptoms. You may also need to see a neurologist (nerve specialist) to check for problems that need to be treated. If no medical condition is found, your healthcare provider may talk to you about working with a mental health specialist. The specialist can help you talk about any stress or anxiety you are feeling.

How is conversion disorder managed?

Signs and symptoms of conversion disorder usually last a short time, and treatment is not needed. The following may help you manage conversion disorder and reduce your symptoms:

  • Therapy can help you work through any anxiety or stress you may be feeling. A therapist will talk with you about anything difficult that is happening now or that happened in the past. You can talk with the therapist about what you did to handle the stress. The therapist may also help you understand how your signs and symptoms are related to how you are feeling. You may be able to learn new ways to handle anxiety or stress. You may have therapy alone or with members of your family. You may learn to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
  • Physical or occupational therapy can help you as you recover. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help build muscles or improve balance. An occupational therapist can help you learn new ways to do your daily activities until your symptoms are gone.
  • Medicines are sometimes used to help control anxiety or to improve your mood. These medicines are used together with therapy or other treatments.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your signs or symptoms come back after treatment.
  • You have new or worsening signs or symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Conversion Disorder

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.