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General clinical features of conversion (hysterical) disorders

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

The clinical features occur with:

  • an absence of pathology
  • they are produced unconsciously
  • there is often obvious discrepancy between signs and symptoms
  • they are not produced by sympathetic overactivity

The reproduction of disease depends upon the patient's experiences and will be most accurate in those that know much about the particular condition they think they suffer from.

There may often be a source of secondary gain, and patients show an indifference to their condition called "la belle indifference". Patients seldom present after the age of 40 years.

The features that may occur in this condition are diverse.

The higher centres and the CNS are most commonly affected and these may produce symptoms such as paralysis, sensory loss, amnesia etc. The condition may present with pseudo-dementia in which there is a development of a psychotic state. The patient may feel pain that is of hysterical origin.

Other characteristic symptoms include:

  • suggestibility - of hypnosis
  • symbolic meaning of the symptoms - for example blindness after viewing infidelity

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