Formerly known as "Hysteria," and also called Pseudoneurologic Syndrome, Hyterical Neurosis, or Psychogenic Disorder, Conversion Disorder is a type of Somatoform disorder. Symptoms occur that commonly resemble those of neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy, but seemingly happen without corresponding bodily damage, and there are no existing physical disorders. Medical tests on people that have this disorder are either normal or they are unable to explain the cause of the problems. Diagnoses of this disorder includes the disqualification of conscious malingering (fabrication or exaggeration of symptoms) or factitious disorders.
The symptoms that occur are narrowed to problems in structures that are governed by the Somatic nervous system. These symptoms include the following: Hysterical paralysis-- weakness/paralysis of a limb or the entire body, impaired vision or hearing, loss or disturbance of sensation, hysterical aphonia-- impairment or loss of speech, psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, fixed distonia, tremors, gait problems, or fainting. These symptoms happen unexpectedly and dramatically, sometimes after a stressful event in one's life.
Symptoms are thought to disappear when the patient is asleep, hypnotized, under anesthesia, or unconscious (Parobek, 1997; Silver, 1996), and are often more severe on the non-dominant (often left) side of the body. Some believe that because of unconscious knowledge that the symptoms are unreal, patients show "a relative lack of concern about the nature or implications of the symptoms." (DSM-IV) This is called "La Belle Indifference." A later study showed that no evidence was found suggesting that petients with "functional" symptoms were any more likely to show this than patients with real neurological conditions. (Stone J, Smyth R, Carson A, Warlow C, Sharpe M: 2006)
"Hysteria" was once originally thought to effect only women, but recent studies show that men also...
References: "Childhood Abuse in Patients with Conversion Disorder" Am J Psychiatry, 2002
Nov: 159(11): 1908-13
Br J Psychiatry, 2006 Mar: 188 pgs. 204-9
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