What is conversion disorder?
Conversion disorder is a mental health condition which causes physical symptoms. It is also referred to as “functional neurologic disorder.” This disorder features nervous system symptoms that cannot be explained by a neurological disease or other medical condition.
A person with conversion disorder may experience blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system symptoms. People with conversion disorder are not making up their symptoms, injuring themselves intentionally, or lying about their condition.
Conversion disorder is a real condition with real symptoms. These real symptoms can cause significant distress and problems functioning. It is referred to as conversion disorder because the brain “converts” the effects of a mental health problem into disruptions of the nervous system or brain. It is an uncommon problem, affecting only about 12 people out of every 100,000.
What are the symptoms of conversion disorder?
Conversion disorder typically affects movement or the senses, such as the ability to see, hear, walk, or swallow. These symptoms can change in severity and either come and go or appear constantly.
Some signs and symptoms that affect body movement and function include weakness or paralysis, tremors, difficulty walking, difficulty swallowing, loss of balance, seizures with apparent loss of consciousness, and episodes of unresponsiveness.
Some signs and symptoms which affect the senses include numbness, inability to speak, slurred speech, double vision, blindness, hearing problems, or cognitive problems involving memory and concentration.
People with conversion disorder often feel pain, sometimes along with other symptoms and sometimes by itself. They may also experience muscle spasms, twitching, tremors, and tension because of a disruption in how the brain controls the muscles.
Some common signs of conversion disorder include a debilitating symptom that begins suddenly, a lack of concern that usually occurs with a severe symptom, and a history of a psychological problem that gets better after the symptom appears; this phenomenon is referred to as “la belle indifference” (French for “beautiful ignorance”).
What are the causes of, and risk factors for, conversion disorder?
The specific causes of conversion disorder are not clearly known. The symptoms usually begin suddenly after a stressful experience or with emotional or physical trauma.
Some other triggers may include changes or disruptions in the brain’s functioning at the metabolic, cellular, or structural level. People are at risk of developing conversion disorder if they have a medical illness, a dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder.
Neurological disorders or diseases such as migraines, epilepsy, or a movement disorder may increase the risk of conversion disorder. Other factors include having a family member with neurological conditions or symptoms, having a history of physical or sexual abuse or neglect in childhood, or recent significant stress or emotional or physical trauma. Women are more likely than men to develop conversion disorder.
How is Conversion Disorder diagnosed?
Conversion disorder does not have any standard tests for diagnosis. Typically, a doctor will assess any existing symptoms and rule out any other medical condition that may cause the symptoms.
The tests which a doctor may recommend will depend on the symptoms which you have, they may include:
- Blood tests
- CT scans
- Evoked potentials tests
The evaluation could include a physical exam and psychiatric exam. The physical exam may eliminate neurological diseases or other medical disorders which may be the cause of the symptoms.
The DSM-V lists the diagnostic criteria for conversion disorder. The criteria are comprised of: one or more symptoms that affect body movement or the senses; symptoms that cannot be explained by a neurologist or other medical condition or another mental health disorder; and the symptoms cause significant distress or problems in social, work or other areas, or they are significant enough that medical evaluation is recommended.
How is Conversion Disorder treated?
The first approach for treating conversion disorder is typically a form of psychotherapy as conversion disorder is a mental health condition that causes physical symptoms. Some common types of psychotherapy include cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, or group therapy.
A doctor may also prescribe medications to help conversion disorder if the person suffers from anxiety or depression. Physical or occupational therapy or speech therapy may also be used to treat conversion disorder if symptoms include paralysis, loss of mobility, or trouble with speech.
Can I get disability benefits for Conversion Disorder?
Conversion disorder can have a real effect on one’s ability to perform normal work activity. If you suffer from severe effects from conversion disorder and will continue to do so for at least one year, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are available for those who have worked and paid taxes on their earnings for at least 5 of the past 10 years.
If you meet these criteria and your condition keeps you from performing work activity, LaBovick Law Group can help you apply for benefits, develop your case, and represent you at the hearing stage in front of an administrative law judge.
How can I succeed in my claim for SSDI benefits?
Hiring an attorney places you in the best position for success with your Social Security Disability case. A law firm will submit your application, communicate medical updates with the Division of Disability Services, and provide guidance through the process.
Once the case is scheduled for a hearing, an attorney will draft a pre-hearing brief for the judge and advance arguments for your case on your behalf. The attorney will also be able to cross examine any witnesses the judge may call at the hearing, such as medical doctors or vocational experts.
The attorney can also advise you on any technical changes that may be needed for a favorable decision on your case.
The Social Security Disability process is lengthy and its rules are not straightforward. An experienced law firm like the LaBovick Law Group will understand the process and know the best course of actual to develop your case towards a successful outcome.
Give us a call at (561) 625-8400 for a free case evaluation.