Psychogenic pseudosyncope: diagnosis and management

Auton Neurosci. 2014 Sep;184:66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2014.05.003. Epub 2014 May 16.


Psychogenic pseudosyncope (PPS) is the appearance of transient loss of consciousness (TLOC) in the absence of true loss of consciousness. Psychiatrically, most cases are classified as conversion disorder, which is hypothesized to represent the physical manifestation of internal stressors. The incidence of PPS is likely under-recognized and the disorder is under investigated in the unexplained syncope population, yet it can be diagnosed accurately with a focused history and confirmed with investigations including head-up tilt testing (HUTT), electroencephalogram (EEG; sometimes combined with video) or, in some centers, transcranial Doppler (TCD). Patients are more likely to be young females with an increased number of episodes over the past 6months. They frequently experience symptoms prior to their episodes including light-headedness, shortness of breath and tingling. Conversion disorder is associated with symptomatic chronicity, increased psychiatric and physical impairment, and diminished quality of life. Understanding the epidemiology, biological underpinnings and approach to diagnosis of PPS is important to improve the recognition of this disorder so that patients may be managed appropriately. The general treatment approach involves limiting unnecessary interventions, providing the patient with needed structure, and encouraging functionality. While there are no treatment data available for patients with PPS, studies in related conversion disorder populations support the utility of psychotherapy. Psychotropic medications should be considered in patients with comorbid psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Conversion disorder; Diagnosis; Management; Psychogenic pseudosyncope; Syncope.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Conversion Disorder / epidemiology
  • Conversion Disorder / pathology
  • Conversion Disorder / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / pathology
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy*
  • Syncope / diagnosis*
  • Syncope / epidemiology
  • Syncope / pathology
  • Syncope / therapy*