What is conversion disorder (functional neurological symptom disorder)?

What is conversion barrier?

Conversion disorder (also known as functional neurosymptom disorder) is a psychological condition that causes symptoms that appear to be neurological, such as paralysis, speech disturbance, or tremor, but there is no obvious or known organic cause.In the past, these events were often referred to as “hysterical blindness” or “hysterical paralysis.”

Conversion disorder is a relatively rare mental illness, with 2 to 5 people reporting symptoms every year in 100,000 people.It is classified as a physical disorder, according to Manual of Diagnosis and Statistics of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), The main diagnostic guide for the mental health profession.

Understanding the medical definition of conversion disorder is the first step in seeking help for yourself or your loved one.


Symptoms that affect voluntary movement or sensory function usually appear suddenly-these symptoms may disappear suddenly without any physical cause.

The physical symptoms of conversion disorder are often described as the way your body handles unresolved stress or unexpressed emotions that trigger the disorder. In other words, physical symptoms distract people from emotional stress. Conversion disorders usually affect motor function and senses.

The symptoms of conversion disorder may be related to any imaginable neurological deficit, including:

  • Abnormal walking or shaking
  • Blindness or double vision
  • Deafness or hearing problems
  • Coordination disorder
  • Unresponsive plot
  • lost balance
  • Loss of smell (loss of smell)
  • Loss of touch (anaesthesia)
  • Aphonia (aphonia)
  • Numbness or loss of touch
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Slurred or unable to speak
  • Temporary blindness or double vision
  • Difficulty swallowing or a feeling of “lumps” in the throat
  • Weakness or paralysis
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DSM-5 provides several specific criteria for diagnosing conversion disorders, including:

  • There must be at least one symptom of sensory or movement disorder.
  • Symptoms are not caused by neurological diseases, physical diseases, or substance use.
  • The symptoms are related to severe pain.
  • The symptoms cannot be better explained by another physical or psychological condition.

Differential diagnosis

Your healthcare provider also needs to rule out conditions that may cause similar symptoms, including:

  • lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis (blindness caused by optic neuritis)
  • Myasthenia gravis (muscle weakness)
  • Periodic paralysis (muscle weakness)
  • Polymyositis (muscle weakness)
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

Causes and risk factors

Although the exact cause is not yet known, studies have shown that it may be caused by abnormal flow in certain areas of the brain.

Conversion disorder may also be a psychological response to a highly stressful event or emotional trauma. For example, a soldier who subconsciously wishes to avoid firing may cause hand paralysis.

This disease does not necessarily develop immediately after triggering, so it is important to disclose recent and past stress when talking with your therapist.

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Other risk factors for conversion barriers include:

  • Are women (Women have a higher risk of developing this disease.)
  • Serious, hardworking, obsessive-compulsive, perfectionist
  • A family member with a conversion disorder (a first-degree female relative with a conversion disorder—a sister, mother, or daughter—is more likely to have symptoms than women in the general population.)
  • Have a mental health condition, including mood or anxiety disorders, dissociative identity disorder (formerly called multiple personality disorder), or other personality disorders
  • Have maladaptive personality traits
  • Having a neurological disorder that causes similar symptoms (for example, non-seizures in epilepsy patients)
  • History of physical or sexual abuse and neglect as a child

Research has also shown that people with conversion disorders also tend to have abnormal emotional regulation.


Discourse barriers are not lifelong barriers. If you or someone you love is experiencing severe or lingering symptoms of conversion disorder, you may need treatment, depending on your individual symptoms.

However, even without treatment, symptoms may improve on their own over time, and most people will get better with time and peace of mind.


Psychotherapy, including individual or group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnosis, biofeedback, and relaxation therapy, has been found to help people with speech disorders identify triggers and symptoms and learn new ways to deal with them.

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Your healthcare provider may prescribe an anxiolytic or antidepressant to treat the underlying stress or anxiety that causes the symptoms of conversion disorder.

Physical therapy

Physiotherapy is usually used for people with dyskinesias and speech disorders, including problems with coordination, balance, walking, or weakness in the limbs. It is also important to prevent any secondary complications (including muscle weakness and stiffness) caused by inactivity.

Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) method

Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) methods, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), are possible alternative therapies to reduce the symptoms of conversion disorders, including limb weakness and paralysis.

However, it is important to realize that these treatments are considered experimental and lack rigorous randomized controlled trials. Therefore, these treatments should be treated with caution.


In addition to treatment, adopting some healthy lifestyle changes can help ensure that you better manage any stress and anxiety that cause symptoms. This may include:

Seek support

In addition to emotional support, online support communities and Facebook groups can help ensure that you are educated about the latest discoveries and methods for managing conversion barriers. Some social networking sites to consider include: