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Conversion Disorder
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Resource Description: 
Danielle's Journey: Watch a video of Second Opinion patient, Danielle Kerr and her journey with Conversion Disorder.
Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life.
PubMed Health : PubMed Health specializes in reviews of clinical effectiveness research, with easy-to-read summaries for consumers as well as full technical reports.
Episode number: 
906

(Source: PubMed Health / NIH) Conversion disorder is a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation. Symptoms can include blindness, paralysis and other physical symtpoms. Symptoms usually begin suddenly after a stressful experience. People are more at risk for a conversion disorder if they also have a medical illness, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder.

Conversion disorder is real

It is important to understand that patients are not making up their symptoms (malingering). Some doctors falsely believe that conversion disorder is not a real condition, and may tell patients the problem is all in their head. However, these conditions are real. They cause distress and cannot be turned on and off at will.

Treatment of conversion disorder may include:

  • Talk therapy (psychotherapy) and stress management training may help reduce symptoms.
  • The affected body part or physical function will need physical or occupational therapy until the symptoms disappear. For example, paralyzed limbs must be exercised to prevent muscle wasting.

    Source: PubMed Health / NIH

Key Point 1

Sometimes neurological symptoms like blindness, paralysis and involuntary movements are caused not by a physiological problem but by a psychological upset of some kind.  Conversion Disorder is a condition where mental or emotional crisis produces stress that converts to a physical problem.  People diagnosed with conversion disorder are not “faking it”.  Their distress is very real and cannot be turned on and off at will.

Key Point 2

There is help for conversion disorder.  An effective treatment plan can include talk therapy, medication, relaxation techniques and sometimes the simple passage of time.  Whatever approach works for you, many people with conversion disorder benefit from a team approach to their recovery.

Medline Plus

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Interactive Medical Search logoConduct an off-site search for Conversion Disorder from MedlinePlus.  These up-to-date search results are based on search terms specific to Second Opinion Key Points.

Conversion Disorder (Mayo Clinic)

Conversion Disorder (MedlinePlus)

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