Conversion disorder: current problems and potential solutions for DSM-5

J Psychosom Res. 2011 Dec;71(6):369-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2011.07.005. Epub 2011 Sep 17.


Conversion disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) describes neurological symptoms, including weakness, numbness and events resembling epilepsy or syncope, which can be positively identified as not being due to recognised neurological disease. This review combines perspectives from psychiatry, psychology and neurology to identify and discuss key problems with the current diagnostic DSM-IV criteria for conversion disorder and to make the following proposals for DSM-5: (a) abandoning the label "conversion disorder" and replacing it with an alternative term that is both theoretically neutral and potentially more acceptable to patients and practitioners; (b) relegating the requirements for "association of psychological factors" and the "exclusion of feigning" to the accompanying text; (c) adding a criterion requiring clinical findings of internal inconsistency or incongruity with recognised neurological or medical disease and altering the current 'disease exclusion' criteria to one in which the symptom must not be 'better explained' by a disease if present, (d) adding a 'cognitive symptoms' subtype. We also discuss whether conversion symptoms are better classified with other somatic symptom disorders or with dissociative disorders and how we might address the potential heterogeneity of conversion symptoms in classification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conversion Disorder / classification*
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Humans