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Conversion disorder is very complex and difficult to diagnose, because the problem is with the functioning of the nervous system and not due to a disease of the nerves or brain. The following tests are commonly used to investigate a diagnosis of conversion disorder:

  • Medical history and physical exam. This helps both rule out other existing illnesses as possible causes and/or identifies conditions that may play a role in the symptoms of conversion disorder.
  • CT and MRI scans. These tests provide detail on possible head injuries, strokes, brain tumors and brain diseases that may be causing symptoms. In addition, newer research is providing evidence that structural changes are seen in the brains of patients with conversion disorder.
  • EEG (electroencephalogram). This tests looks for evidence of seizures or other electrical changes in the brain.

Technically, a diagnosis of conversion disorder is made based on the following criteria.

The patient has:

  • One or more symptoms that alter voluntary motor (muscle movement) or sensory function (affecting the five senses: vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell)
  • No physical findings that may explain the symptoms.
  • No other disease or mental disorder is present to explain the symptoms.
  • Symptoms that cause significant distress or impairment.

Once positive findings from the exam indicate a diagnosis of conversion disorder, the next step to screen the patient for psychiatric risk factors that may play a role in contributing to or complicating the disorder.


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