Conversion disorder is a psychological condition wherein physical symptoms appear as the affected individual tries to resolve his/her internal psychological conflicts. The symptoms are physical manifestations of the psychological conflict that may be triggered by a stressful event. One of more voluntary motor or sensor functions could be affected by this disorder. This means the person may suddenly be affected by paralysis, blindness, deafness, inability to swallow, walk, etc.
The symptoms may appear to be very grave. However, the affected person might feel better within a couple of weeks. A person is diagnosed with this disorder, if he/she fulfills the criteria mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders. This condition is diagnosed after thorough medical test, evaluation, reflection of physical symptoms and impairment of the social and occupational function.
So, what is conversion disorder caused by? Well, it is not very clear as to what causes this disorder, but it is believed that these episodes may be triggered by a very stressful event or mental disorder like depression. The region of brain that controls the muscles and sensory organs is said to be affected. When the brain thinks of something as a threat, it suddenly freezes, thereby causing the following symptoms:
Paralysis of an arm or leg
Loss of voice or inability to speak
Sudden blindness or double vision
Poor balance or coordination
Inability to walk
Loss of sense of touch
Loss of sense of pain
The doctor may evaluate the affected person, before beginning with the treatment. He will confirm that the person is not faking these symptoms. The doctor may also rule out myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, etc., as the reason behind the symptoms observed.
Once it is confirmed that the patient is affected by this disorder, the treatment will involve physical therapy to help the patient move his/her arms and legs. Psychotherapy sessions would also be required to help a person overcome stress, depression, and anxiety. The doctor may also prescribe antianxiety medications, sedatives, etc., to help the patient overcome stress and other stress-related conditions. In some cases, hypnosis is the line of treatment used to treat this disorder along with psychotherapy.
Women have been found to be affected by conversion disorder more often than men. Since a person’s inability to cope with trauma and stress could cause sudden blindness, paralysis, fits, convulsions, deafness, etc., it’s essential to deal with the stress in life. People affected by depression, anxiety, etc., are more susceptible to this disorder, which is why medical help must be sought to lower the risk of this disorder.