Conversion disorders: psychiatric and psychotherapeutic aspects

Neurophysiol Clin. 2014 Oct;44(4):405-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2013.09.005. Epub 2013 Oct 25.


Hysteria is still stigmatized and frequently associated with lying or malingering. However, conversion disorder is not malingering, nor factitious disorder. The first step for the clinician faced with suspected conversion disorder is to make a positive diagnosis, which is in fact an integral part of treatment. In the emergency situation, it is important to look for an underlying somatic disorder. Although no specific treatment exists, there is a consensus in favor of a positive role of psychotherapy. First of all, the main problem is to explain to patients that their physical complaint has a psychological cause. In order to deliver the diagnosis in the most appropriate and useful manner, physicians have to first convince themselves before trying to convince patients. Combined consultation (medicine and psychiatry) is a useful tool to help patients. With or without combined consultation, this approach requires patience and open-mindedness to motivate patients to recognize the value of psychotherapy. Coordination between specialists and general practitioners is an important part of this treatment, which frequently requires long-term intervention.

Keywords: Combined medical and psychiatric consultation; Consultation-liaison psychiatry; Conversion disorder; Hysteria; Hystérie; Multidisciplinarité médecine psychiatrie; Psychiatrie de liaison; Psychotherapy; Psychothérapie; Somatoform disorder; Traitement; Treatment; Troubles conversifs; Troubles somatoformes.

MeSH terms

  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Conversion Disorder / psychology
  • Conversion Disorder / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy