Conversion Disorder: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Conversion disorder, also known as functional neurological symptom disorder, is a condition that affects an individual’s ability to control their body movements or senses. It is a psychiatric disorder characterized by the presence of physical symptoms that cannot be explained by any underlying medical condition. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of conversion disorder, including its causes, symptoms, and available treatment options.

1. What is Conversion Disorder?

Conversion disorder is a mental health condition in which a person experiences physical symptoms that are inconsistent with any known medical condition. These symptoms can be severe and debilitating, affecting the individual’s ability to perform daily activities. The symptoms often resemble those of neurological disorders, such as paralysis, blindness, or seizures, but they are not caused by any structural or organic damage to the nervous system.

2. Understanding the Causes of Conversion Disorder

The exact cause of conversion disorder is not fully understood. However, it is believed to result from a combination of psychological, social, and biological factors. Traumatic experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, can play a significant role in triggering conversion disorder symptoms. Other risk factors may include high levels of stress, personality traits, and a history of other mental health disorders.

3. Common Symptoms of Conversion Disorder

Conversion disorder can manifest in a variety of physical symptoms that affect different parts of the body. Some common symptoms include:

  • Paralysis or weakness in limbs
  • Loss of sensation or altered sensation
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Blindness or double vision
  • Tremors or involuntary movements
  • Unexplained hearing loss
  • Episodes of unresponsiveness or “fainting”

It is important to note that these symptoms are not intentionally feigned or fabricated by the individual but are a genuine expression of their psychological distress.

4. Diagnosis and Evaluation of Conversion Disorder

Diagnosing conversion disorder can be challenging since it requires ruling out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms. A thorough medical evaluation, including physical examinations and diagnostic tests, is essential to exclude any organic pathology. Additionally, psychiatric assessments and discussions regarding the individual’s medical history and life events are crucial for a proper diagnosis.

5. Treatment Options for Conversion Disorder

The treatment approach for conversion disorder primarily focuses on addressing the underlying psychological factors contributing to the symptoms. A multidisciplinary approach involving mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and physical therapists, is often necessary. The following treatment modalities are commonly employed:

5.1 Psychotherapy and Counseling for Conversion Disorder

Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is effective in helping individuals with conversion disorder understand and manage their symptoms. Therapists assist patients in identifying stressors, exploring underlying emotions, and developing healthier coping mechanisms. Additionally, supportive counseling can provide emotional support and guidance throughout the treatment process.

5.2 Medications for Conversion Disorder

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to alleviate associated symptoms of anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers can be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. However, medications alone are generally not considered a primary treatment for conversion disorder.

5.3 Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy and rehabilitation techniques can help individuals regain control over their movements and improve functional abilities. Techniques such as graded motor imagery, mirror therapy, and sensory retraining may be employed to facilitate recovery and reduce disability.

5.4 Lifestyle Modifications and Self-Care

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and engaging in self-care practices can significantly contribute to the management of conversion disorder symptoms. Regular exercise, stress management techniques (such as mindfulness and relaxation exercises), and maintaining a balanced diet can enhance overall well-being.

6. Support and Coping Strategies for Individuals with Conversion Disorder

Living with conversion disorder can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can help individuals cope with their condition:

  • Seek support from family, friends, or support groups
  • Engage in stress-reducing activities, such as hobbies or creative outlets
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation
  • Educate oneself about conversion disorder to better understand the condition
  • Follow the recommended treatment plan and attend therapy sessions regularly

7. Prognosis and Long-Term Outlook

The prognosis for individuals with conversion disorder varies depending on various factors, including the severity of symptoms, response to treatment, and individual resilience. With appropriate treatment and support, many people with conversion disorder experience a significant reduction in symptoms and improvement in their overall quality of life. However, some individuals may continue to experience intermittent symptoms or have periods of relapse.

8. Prevention of Conversion Disorder

As the exact cause of conversion disorder is not yet fully understood, there are no specific prevention methods. However, early intervention in cases of trauma or other significant life stressors may help reduce the risk of developing conversion disorder symptoms.


Conversion disorder is a complex psychiatric condition characterized by physical symptoms that cannot be explained by any known medical condition. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and available treatment options is crucial for healthcare professionals and individuals affected by the disorder. Through a multidisciplinary approach encompassing psychotherapy, medications (if necessary), physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications, individuals with conversion disorder can effectively manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can conversion disorder be cured?

Conversion disorder can be managed and treated effectively with a combination of therapies, but a complete cure may not always be possible.

Is conversion disorder common?

Conversion disorder is relatively rare, but its prevalence may be underestimated due to misdiagnosis or underreporting.

Are there any risk factors for conversion disorder?

Individuals with a history of trauma, other mental health disorders, or certain personality traits may be at a higher risk of developing conversion disorder.

Can stress trigger conversion disorder symptoms?

Yes, high levels of stress and emotional distress can contribute to the onset or exacerbation of conversion disorder symptoms.

Is conversion disorder a form of malingering or faking symptoms?

No, conversion disorder is a genuine condition in which individuals experience physical symptoms that are not consciously controlled or fabricated.


  1. Mayo Clinic – The Mayo Clinic website provides comprehensive and trustworthy information on various medical conditions, including conversion disorder. Visit their website at
  2. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) – The NIMH offers valuable resources and research articles on mental health disorders, including conversion disorder. You can explore their website at
  3. Psychology Today – Psychology Today is a reputable source that covers a wide range of psychological topics. They often have articles written by professionals in the field of psychology. Visit their website at
  4. WebMD – WebMD is known for providing reliable medical information, including articles on various mental health conditions. Their website is
  5. MedlinePlus – MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, offers trusted information on health topics, including conversion disorder. You can find relevant articles on their website at

Related Posts:

Whats on this Page?

© Clean and 2023. All Rights Reserved.