WHAT IS CONVERSION DISORDER?
Conversion disorder is also known as functional neurological disorder.
There is no medical condition that can explain the symptoms associated with conversion disorder, which is what makes it an incredibly challenging disorder, as the exact cause for the physical symptoms is unknown. It has been noted, that in some cases, the physical symptoms can be triggered by changes in one’s brain function (metabolic, structural, and or cellular level), by stressful events, or by emotional and or physical trauma. However, conversion disorder can also occur without any clear trigger.
Signs and Symptoms of Conversion Disorder
Many of the symptoms related to conversion disorder will manifest differently in different teenagers. Some of the examples of symptoms that can arise in young people with conversion disorder include any combination of the following:
• Difficulty swallowing
• Poor coordination
• Impaired speech
• Urinary problems
• Blurred or vision
• Episodes of unresponsiveness
• Paralysis of arms and or legs
• Shakes and tremors
The above symptoms and others associated with conversion disorder can range from mild to severe. They can be experienced by a young person consistently over an extended period of time, or occur sporadically. Regardless of when or how frequently they occur, the symptoms associated with conversion disorder will be debilitating for the adolescent, which is why seeking treatment is beneficial.
The diagnosis for conversion disorder must be concluded by a qualified mental health professional, and in many cases, will require the support of a medical professional as well. The process for diagnosing conversion disorder can include various medical tests so as to rule out any medical conditions. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has certain criteria for diagnosing conversion disorder. These include, but are not limited to the following:
• Symptoms that impede a young person’s daily life
• Symptoms with no underlying medical or physical cause
• Sensory symptoms
• Loss of movement control
• Symptoms that transpire after a stressful or traumatic experience
Obtaining the proper diagnosis, especially when it comes to adolescent mental health disorders, is critical for one’s recovery process.
Since the core reason for conversion disorder remains unknown, the treatment for a young person suffering from it will need a tailored treatment plan, catering to his or personal needs. At Pacific Teen Treatment, our staff is trained in a variety of therapeutic modalities. If medication is necessary for a teen with conversion disorder, we always consult with the leading experts in adolescent psychiatry. Additionally, we are sure to include the teen’s parents, for permission before any medication is administered and for continued involvement in the teen’s recovery process.
The therapeutic methods that are most frequently incorporated into one’s treatment plan at Pacific Teen Treatment, for teenagers who have conversion disorder, will include any combination of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapies, and relaxation techniques. We also feel that it is essential to a teenager’s recovery to understand a bit about conversion disorder itself and come to understand that his or her symptoms are not related to any type of physical illness. A couple of the relaxation techniques that are regularly integrated in a teen’s treatment plan with conversion disorder include meditation and yoga. Helping an adolescent with conversion disorder learn to integrate healthy pastimes into his or her daily schedule is important. We encourage our residents to engage in regular daily exercise, in addition to getting ample sleep, as well as eating a healthy diet.
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. In order to maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Seeking support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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