Conversion Disorder

What Is It?

A conversion disorder is a relatively uncommon mental disorder in which a person has physical symptoms that no medical condition, physical examination or testing can explain. The person is not "faking." The symptoms do not appear to be under the person's conscious control and they can cause significant distress. Examples of symptoms are a loss of muscle control, blindness, deafness, seizures or even apparent unconsciousness.

The term "conversion" comes from the idea that psychological distress is being converted into a physical symptom. The cause is not known.

A long-standing theory has been that a person with conversion disorder must block out the source of the distress — be it a conflict or stress — because it is too unacceptable for the person to remain aware of it. There is, however, little formal evidence to support this theory.

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