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Conversion Disorder

Conversion Disorder is a mental health diagnosis characterized by medically significant symptoms with no medically relevant cause. For example, a person could spontaneously go blind as a reaction to witnessing a traumatic or stressful event.

Conversion disorder is an extremely rare phenomenon. Typically, it takes multiple rounds of medical and psychological assessment to come to this diagnosis. Many clients and clinicians will exhaust the opinions of numerous psychological and medical professionals before Conversion Disorder presents as a viable diagnosis.

Obstacles to treating Conversion Disorder include not only the little understanding the psychological community has about this disorder, but also that the manifestation of the symptoms are particularly subjective to the client's personal experience. How the client perceives their inner and outer worlds largely determines the quality and severity of symptoms one might display. For instance, one might experience depression and feel ineffectual for a large period of their life, or within a specific circumstance. Therefore, the symptoms may manifest as this person falling into temporary paralysis.

Some people might even mistake panic attacks stemming from PTSD for Conversion Disorder. The key difference is that the symptoms must be of a medical acuity. Whereas, panic attacks can be deeply distressing, unsettling, and feel life-threatening, an overwhelming majority of them do not end with needing medical care nor do they inherently put the client in danger. Additionally, when diagnosing Conversion Disorder, the symptoms are typically indicative of the underlying issues (i.e. blindness due to witnessing trauma, seizures deriving from a deep desire to avoid reality, paralysis stemming from a sense of loss of control, etc.).

Generally, it takes much treatment for the client and therapist to address the underlying concerns which might fuel the symptoms of the disorder. It could be anything from anxiety, repressed anger, depression, trauma, or a plethora or combination of other unique events.

Why is learning about Conversion Disorder relevant?

To be quite frank, Conversion Disorder is somewhat of a dramatic response. Though related, the reaction is not equivalent to the trigger. The reality is that we sometimes do this in our relationships. We often react to triggers in a way that seems inflated and debilitating. When we don't respond adequately when dealing with stressors in relationships, we create an innumerable amount of other residual symptoms which might magnify the central, underlying issues.

This, hopefully, urges us all to take the necessary, effective, and productive steps to target the issues which inhibit us in our lives—lest we be subject to consequences that are more severe than addressing our issues directly.

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Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Cincinnati therapist and a Cincinnati Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Cincinnati and Cincinnati Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.

Sam was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English And Cornell university , Yahoo News, USA Today,,

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