Dissociation disorder and conversion disorder are both mental health conditions. Although they are separate diagnoses, these conditions often occur together.
Dissociative disorder causes a person to become disconnected from their thoughts, memories, consciousness, and identity. Conversion disorder, also known as functional neurological disorder or functional neurological symptom disorder, causes neurological symptoms in the absence of an underlying neurological disorder.
This article discusses the similarities and differences between dissociative disorder and conversion disorder.
Types of Dissociation and Conversion Disorders
There are three types of dissociative disorders. These include:
- Dissociative identity disorder: This condition, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, causes a person to have two or more distinct identities.
- Dissociative amnesia: This condition causes people to be unable to recall information about themselves. It is often associated with traumatic events, such as emotional neglect and abuse in childhood.
- Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: People with this condition feel disconnected from themselves or their surroundings.
Conversion disorder is a diagnosis, but there are several types depending on a person’s symptoms, including:
- weakness or paralysis
- abnormal behavior
- with loss of sensation
- have swallowing or speech symptoms
- With epileptic seizures (psychogenic non-epileptic seizuresor PNE)
What are the symptoms of dissociative disorder?
Each specific dissociative disorder has its own symptoms.
Common symptoms of dissociative identity disorder include:
- have at least two distinct identities with different memory, behavior, and thought patterns
- Loss of memory of past trauma, current events, or personal information
- Difficulty performing daily activities
Symptoms of dissociative amnesia focus on the inability to recall information about yourself. The three main types of memory loss are:
- Localization: specific to a period of time or event – this type is most common
- Optional: forgetting part of an event or time period
- Broad: Complete loss of memory of life history and identity – this type is rare
Symptoms of depersonalization/derealization disorder include:
- See yourself from the “outside”
- Feels like living in a movie
- “Out of the Body” Experience
- Feeling disconnected from your thoughts
What are the symptoms of conversion disorder?
Conversion disorder is a mental health condition characterized by a variety of neurological symptoms that occur in neurological disorders (diseases that affect the brain, nerves, and/or spinal cord). These symptoms are real and can cause distress and damage. These may include:
- Blindness or double vision
- loss of touch
- Numbness or tingling in the face, arms and/or legs
- Arm and/or leg muscle paralysis
- aphasia or difficulty speaking
- tremor / tremor
- hard to fall asleep
- Memory loss or “foggy” brain
- loss of smell
- impaired coordination, dizziness and/or fainting
Diagnosing Dissociation and Conversion Disorders
Dissociative Disorders and Conversion Disorders Used by Mental Health Professionals (eg Psychiatrists or Psychologists) Fifth Edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This reference lists specific criteria that a person needs to meet to be diagnosed with certain diseases.
Dissociative disorder is diagnosed based on a person’s medical history and symptoms. Additional tests may be done to make sure these symptoms are not caused by other medical conditions that can affect memory and other mental functions, such as brain tumors, head injuries, medication side effects, substance use, or sleep problems.
Conversion disorder can also be diagnosed based on a review of symptoms. However, because conversion disorder causes a range of physical symptoms, other tests are usually done to rule out neurological disorders or other medical problems that may cause similar symptoms.
When do these situations occur?
Although dissociative and conversion disorders can occur at any age, they are most common during adolescence.
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Treating Separation and Conversion Disorders
Psychotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for dissociative and conversion disorders. The goals of psychotherapy include:
- Overcome past trauma
- Identify and replace negative thought patterns
- Learn new coping strategies
- Teaches stress management and self-care skills
- improve self-esteem
- help people express their emotions
- improve communication
Additionally, psychotherapy for conversion disorder focuses on identifying the emotional problems that lead to physical symptoms.
Physical therapy may be part of conversion disorder treatment to help maintain muscle strength and reduce stiffness that can result from inactivity. Occupational therapy is also used to help a person regain the ability to perform everyday tasks.
There are no medications that directly treat dissociative or conversion disorders. However, medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are sometimes used to treat depression and anxiety that can occur in these conditions.
Common SSRIs include:
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Paroxetine (Paroxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
Prognosis for dissociative and conversion disorders varies depending on a person’s specific diagnosis, condition, and whether they are receiving treatment. Symptoms of dissociative disorder may recur and are often worsened by stress.
Appropriate psychotherapy and psychiatric treatment may reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms and improve function.
Many people with conversion disorder make a full recovery. Physical symptoms can last as short as a few days or weeks. However, these symptoms can also be recurrent or chronic (persistent).
Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adulthood
Proper treatment is important
Dissociation disorders and conversion disorders significantly affect a person’s daily life. The most important way to deal with these conditions is to seek appropriate treatment.
Dissociation disorder and conversion disorder are mental health conditions that can occur at the same time. Dissociative disorder causes a person to become disconnected from important aspects of their life. Conversion disorder causes physical symptoms that mimic neurological disorders.
Psychotherapy is administered in both cases. As the underlying psychological problem is resolved, other therapies can help restore function. In some cases, medications are used to treat the depression and anxiety that often occur with dissociative and conversion disorders.
Dissociative and conversion disorders are complex disorders that require treatment by qualified professionals. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may have one of these conditions. Treatment can significantly improve your quality of life.
If you are caring for someone with these conditions, consider joining support groups; these groups can help you feel less isolated and provide you with ideas and encouragement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is separation and conversion disorder treatable?
Both dissociative disorder and conversion disorder are primarily treated through psychotherapy.
What is the difference between dissociative disorder and conversion disorder symptoms?
Dissociative disorder symptoms are primarily psychological, whereas conversion disorder manifests as physical signs and symptoms such as blindness and paralysis.
Do dissociation and conversion disorders develop later in life?
Dissociation and conversion disorders can occur at any age, but these conditions are most common during adolescence.
What triggers separation and transition barriers?
Dissociation and conversion disorders are associated with childhood trauma. However, in some cases, the reason is unclear.