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Conversion Disorder

  1. Karin Roelofs,
  2. Philip Spinhoven

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0228

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Roelofs, K. and Spinhoven, P. 2010. Conversion Disorder. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–4.

Author Information

  1. Leiden University, The Netherlands

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Conversion disorder is a mental disturbance in which patients present with neurological symptoms such as paralysis, numbness, or blindness, but for which no neurological or other organic explanation can be identified. Instead, psychological mechanisms are believed to cause the symptoms. Conversion symptoms were initially described in the context of hysteria. The term “conversion disorder” was originated by the physicians Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, who suggested that negative emotions were repressed and “converted” into physical symptoms. Other adjectives frequently used to describe conversion symptoms are “psychogenic,” “pseudoneurological,” or “medically unexplained” bodily symptoms. Known for millennia, this disorder has always been subject to debate and conceptual confusion. This is reflected, for example, in the manner in which the disorder is currently classified within the two major current nosologies. In the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10: WHO, 1992) conversion disorder is a dissociative disorder; in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR: APA, 2000) it is a type of somatoform disorder.