Conversion disorder (CD) is an uncommon but highly disabling condition. Affected children and adolescents are often severely impaired and at risk of serious long-term physical and psychosocial complications. Despite the enormous personal suffering and health resource implications of CD, little research has been done.
To update our knowledge about CD in adolescents, with a comprehensive review of the literature with special focus in prevalence, psychosocial factors, diagnosis, treatment and outcome.
To present the most relevant data of our review with a clinical illustration that provides a practical vision of this disorder.
A systematic literature review was performed in MEDLINE, with particular interest in papers published in the last 10 years. Clinical illustration is provided by a case selected from an outpatient child and adolescent mental health service.
Few reliable prevalence data are available; the range goes from 0.2 in a German study to 31% in non-western clinical settings. Diagnosis is based on a constellation of features and treatment should involve several heath care professionals. CD has a favourable outcome in children and adolescents. However, mood and/or anxiety disorders are encountered at a considerable rate even after recovery from conversion symptoms. Long clinical follow-up seems appropriate.
The expression of emotional distress in the form of physical complaints is common in children. Nevertheless, the most severe presentation of physical symptoms is not a common topic in literature. More research should be done to improve our understanding of this disabling disorder.
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.