Conversion Disorder

What is conversion disorder?

Conversion disorder is a mental health condition in which you have physical symptoms and no physical cause can be found for your symptoms. Usually, the disorder lasts just a few weeks or months. During that time, you may not be able to work or do everyday activities.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of this disorder is not known. Often the symptoms begin after a stressful experience.

Conversion disorder is most common among people 10 to 35 years old. The risk is greater if you:

  • See or are involved in a stressful event, such as a natural or man-made disaster
  • Have a family member with the disorder
  • Were sexually abused
  • Have money, housing, or work problems
  • Are a woman
  • Are around people who have physical symptoms

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms start suddenly. Symptoms may include:

  • Hearing problems or deafness
  • Not being able to speak
  • Not able to move an arm or leg because of numbness or paralysis
  • Seizures or falling down
  • Severe trembling
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vision changes, such as double vision or blindness

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider or therapist will ask about your symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines you are taking. Your provider will check for a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms. You may have tests or scans to check for other possible causes of the symptoms.

How is it treated?

Conversion disorder may be treated with therapy, medicine, or both.


  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a way to help you identify and change views you have of yourself, the world, and the future. CBT can make you aware of unhealthy ways of thinking. It can also help you learn new ways to think and act.
  • Group therapy can help you deal with work and relationships. It takes place in a group of 6 to 10 people, under the guidance of a therapist.
  • Family therapy is often very helpful. Family therapy treats all members of the family rather than working with one person alone. It helps the whole family to make changes.


  • There are no medicines known to treat conversion disorder. Medicine may be prescribed if you also have problems with anxiety or depression. Your healthcare provider will work with you to select the best medicine. You may need to take more than one type of medicine.

Other treatments

  • Learning ways to relax may help. Yoga and meditation may be helpful. You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and therapy. Physical therapy may be needed until symptoms go away. PT may help keep a paralyzed arm or leg strong.
  • Hypnosis may be helpful in treating this disorder.

How can I help take care of myself?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important.

  • Get support. Talk with your family and friends. Consider joining a support group.
  • Learn ways to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax. For example, take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all of the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take. Take all medicines as directed by your provider or therapist. It’s very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Without the medicine, your symptoms may not improve or may get worse. Talk to your provider if you have problems taking your medicine or if the medicine doesn’t seem to be working.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.

Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or self-harm, violence, or harming others. Seek immediate help if you have severe chest pain or trouble breathing.

You can get more information from:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-13
Last reviewed: 2014-01-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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