Characteristics of Conversion Disorder in an Urban Academic Children's Medical Center

Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2019 Oct;58(11-12):1250-1254. doi: 10.1177/0009922819857541. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Background. Literature on childhood conversion disorder (CD) is sparse and is mostly limited to the outpatient population. Method. Our study retrospectively examines the characteristics of childhood CD in 42 children and adolescents seen by the psychiatric consultation-liaison service in an urban academic medical center with a large minority population. Results. CD accounted for 11% of our consultations. The majority of patients were female adolescents, but in the younger cohort, the male-to-female ratio equalized. Other somatic symptoms and additional psychiatric diagnoses were common, anxiety disorders in particular. Antecedent stressors were identified in 95% of patients, most commonly related to family stressors. Recent or remote history of abuse was rare. Neurological presentations were complex, with almost half of the patients presenting with multiple distinct neurological symptoms. Hyperkinetic symptoms were more common than hypokinetic symptoms, and paroxysmal symptoms were more common than non-paroxysmal. No distress (la belle indifference) was found in only 25% of patients and about half of patients had no socio-academic impairment. High resource utilization was noted based on multiple specialist consultants, diagnostic studies, and length of stay. Conclusion. Much of our data confirms previous findings and contributes to what is becoming a more robust characterization of this population.

Keywords: conversion disorder; neurology; pediatrics; psychiatry.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Conversion Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult