Introduction Conversiondisorder refers to a condition that makes patients revealpsychological stress or any other mental disorder in physical ways.Stressful events are the main causes of conversation disorderalthough other mental crises also cause the condition. The symptomsassociated with this disorder are involuntary and they includeblindness, hearing problems, inability to walk and swallowingproblems. The severity of the symptoms differs in different peopleand may be persistent or short-lived. Conversion disorder has been inexistence since 19th century and although many people believe, theprevalence has declined in developed countries studies show that thesymptoms are still common (David &Halligan, 2000). Although the condition is hard to diagnose,it is treatable and patients who manage it well still have a chanceto live normal lives. The symptoms, signs, causes, treatment andprevention of this condition are discussed in this paper.
Causes Althoughthe exact causes of conversion disorder are still unknown, stressfulevents, depression and other emotional conflicts are thought to bethe main causes. Professors in the medical field have carried outmany researches to establish the main cause of this disorder, but nofindings have been proved yet (David& Halligan, 2000) There are several risk factors thatraise the possibilities of suffering from this disorder. If a familymember has this condition, the possibility of other family memberssuffering from the disorder in the future is high. Studies indicatethat 12 out of every 30 people who suffer from the condition have afamily member who had the condition (Feinstein, 2011). People whohave experienced sexual abuse or physical violence in their life arelikely to suffer from the condition. Recent findings indicate thatmost of the patients suffering from conversion syndrome, experiencedsexual abuse in their childhood.
Neglected children are likely to experience the disorder when theygrow up according to findings done in the late 20th century.Neglected children are likely to suffer from mental stress anddepression according to different studies. Most of the students inNew York, who developed hearing problems because of the disorder, hadbeen neglected by their parents. Many of the victims who suffer fromthis syndrome are women. However, this is not to mean that men arenot in the risk of contracting the disorder. Perhaps many men whosuffer from this condition do not seek medical attention and thustheir cases are never reported. 79 percent of the reported incidentsof the disorder in United States involve women and mostly young women(Owen & Dein, 2006). There are various explanations why this isso, but the main reason is that women report most of their cases,unlike men.
Studies have also shown that children aged between twelve and beloware less likely to suffer from the disorder. The conversion syndromeis more common in teenagers and young adults according to theavailable data. Majority of the reported incidents of the disorderaffected adults at their early or late thirties this is where thepeak is. The prevalence of the disorder among old adults is limitedaccording to the available information. Many of the reportedincidents in the US have been in high schools and majority of thepatients were female students and young teachers. Individuals withmental illnesses or other personal illnesses suffer from the syndromemore often. Psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, fear anddepression increase the chances of contracting the syndrome. Medicalillnesses contribute significantly to the disorder. People who aretaking medication for another illness are common victims ofconversion disorder (Owen & Dein, 2006).
Individuals who suffer from diseases that have similar symptoms withconversion disorder are more likely to suffer from this condition.Diseases such as epilepsy are common neurological illnesses thatcause conversion disorder. Recent cases of emotional stress mainlycontribute to the disorder. People who have been deceased by theirloved ones or by a person they depended on are likely to experiencemental stress (Fisher, 2007). Students who have performed poorly intheir exams have a tendency of catching the disorder. Families thatexperience domestic violence frequently are likely to have theirfamily members suffer from the syndrome. The last established factorthat can cause the condition is economic status. People who areundergoing through financial crisis with so many bills to settle andno funds are likely to suffer from the disorder (David& Halligan, 2000).
After a major trauma or mental stress, individuals who suffer fromconversion disorder experience symptoms and signs almost immediately.These symptoms do not last for a long time with research showing theytake between two weeks and years. However, in some people thesymptoms may keep reoccurring after a short while. Research indicatesthat 30 percent of people, who contact this syndrome, had experiencedit in the past (Fisher, 2007). Signs of conversion disorder arecategorized into two there are those that affect the senses andothers that affect movement. A person who is stressed because oflosing a close friend, a spouse, relative or a helper may catch thedisorder and demonstrate it by becoming numb. Other individualsdevelop hearing problems. In many instances, when such patients aretaken to hospitals, the doctors cannot establish the disease.Neurologists and psychiatrists usually establish whether a person issuffering from the disorder after carrying out different tests (Owen& Dein, 2006).
Signs and symptoms that affect movement include lack of balance- insome people, trauma often means they do not have body balance anymoreand thus they cannot carry normal tasks. Paralysis of a limb or limbsis a symptom associated with the syndrome. Weakness of the limb canbe so severe to the point of paralysis. Difficulty in swallowing is asymptom of the syndrome. A lump develops in the throat of the victimand this causes difficulties in swallowing food. Patients of thissyndrome can experience urinary retention in their gall bladder.Kidneys fail to function well because of trauma leading to urineretention. In addition, individuals suffering from the disorder maydevelop movement problems. Such victims are not able to movecompletely or they can only move in tremor (Brown, 2009).
There are other signs and symptoms that affect the senses theyinclude speaking problems where the patient is unable to give aspeech and can only utter one or two words. Numbness is also commonamong patients suffering from the disorder. Patients lose the touchsenses and they cannot experience pain even if they are pinched.Patients of the syndrome can develop sight problems whereby theycannot see well or they are permanently blind. Blurred vision and/orblindness are common occurrences among people aged between 10 and 35years who are suffering from the disorder. In addition, patients ofconversion disorder can develop hearing problems or become deaf(Brown, 2007).
Diagnosis Inorder for a diagnosis to be done, the clinician should first do athorough investigation to establish whether the symptoms are broughtabout by physical causes. A patient can have symptoms similar tothose of conversion disorder though the disease is different. If thefindings of the investigation suggest the patient is not sufferingfrom physical causes, a neurologist should be called to establishwhether the patient has any neurological disease. Some neurologicaldiseases such as epilepsy, sclerosis and stroke have symptoms similarto those of conversion disorder. A neurologist plays a crucial rolein determining whether the patient is suffering from a neurologicaldisease. The challenge with this procedure is that sometimes patientswith conversion disorder may also have a neurological disease(Feinstein, 2011).
If neurological results indicate, the patient is not suffering fromany neurological disease. Clinicians should establish whether thepatient is feigning. Some researchers believe that certain people canpretend to be suffering from the condition for selfish gain.Unfortunately, it is hard if not impossible to establish whethersomeone is feigning. If all the investigations reveal the patient issuffering from conversion disorder, psychiatrists should determinethe cause of the disorder. This is usually a hard task and itinvolves asking the patient particular questions. If the patient istoo numb to answer the questions asked by the psychiatrist, then aclose person to the patient should respond to the questions (Brown,2009).
Many symptoms of conversion disorder cease without any medicalattention and thus patients do not have to seek treatment. However,if the condition keeps reoccurring, it is advisable to seek medicalattention. There are several treatment options available, but theydepend on the cause and symptoms of the disorder. Counseling byexperts and physiotherapy are the two main methods of treating thedisorder. Identification of environmental triggers is also useful ineliminating the conversion syndrome. In the case of a paralyzed limbor arm, physical or occupational therapy is necessary to ensuremovement of the organ. Physical or occupational therapy should bepersistent to prevent recurrence of the syndrome (Fisher, 2007).
If the cause of the disorder is stress, a counselor should teachpatient techniques of managing stress. A psychiatrist can alsoprescribe anti- anxiety drugs to minimize the stress. Patients whosuffer from this disease due to depression are advised to use anti-depressants. Alteration of the brain`s chemistry using weak electriccurrents is another way of treating conversion disorder. Manyprofessors from the medical field believe that the disorder cannot beprevented because it involves unexpected traumas that are hard topredict. However, counselors believe the disorder can be prevented byliving a good life through social contacts and work- life balance.Other mental conditions should be well treated to avoid futuredisorders (Fisher, 2007).Conclusion
Conversion disorder is a mental disorder that is mostly caused bystressful events and depression. Symptoms of this condition includenumbness, paralysis, deafness and blindness. The syndrome is commonin teenagers and young adults. The symptoms of this disorder areshort-lived but may reoccur if not well managed. In most cases, thecondition disappears without medical attention but it is advisable toseek treatment immediately the symptoms are observed. Conversiondisorder can be treated through physiotherapy and counseling.
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