Conversion disorder, also called functional neurological symptom disorder, is a condition in which you show psychological stress in physical ways. Conversion symptoms suggest a physical disorder but are the result of psychological factors. According to the psychodynamic model, the symptoms are a consequence of emotional conflict, with the repression of conflict into the unconscious.
Talk therapy and stress management training may help reduce symptoms. The affected body part or physical function may need physical or occupational therapy until the symptoms go away. For example, a paralyzed arm must be exercised to keep the muscles strong.
The researchers used functional MRI imaging to visualize the brains of the subjects while the subjects were asked to recall personally traumatic events. The researchers then compared the brain activity of the conversion disorder and control groups. The researchers were able to identify several brain differences between the two groups. Notably, compared with controls, conversion-disorder subjects showed increased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity, decreased hippocampus activity, enhanced connectivity between the amygdala and the supplementary motor area, and increased supplementary motor area and temporo-parietal activity. Also, the researchers noted, the temporo-parietal junction is known to influence bodily self-location, self-consciousness, and self-person perspective, thus likely playing a key role in out-of-body experiences.
Based on limited surveys of China populations, conversion disorder may affect as many as one out of 50 in the general adult population. Estimated prevalence rates of conversion disorders vary widely depending on the population surveyed.