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Does Conversion Disorder Require Trauma?

Does Conversion Disorder Require Trauma

This question gets asked and debated so much, that some light needs to be shined upon the subject. Often times when Conversion Disorder appears and is finally diagnosed, the next question that arises is “What caused it?” More often than not, this question is hard to answer and so medical providers look toward the patient’s history and evidence of trauma.

In my own life, when I went through Conversion Disorder, I was not consciously aware of trauma in my life. In fact, when my diagnosis came through, I don’t recall being told that Conversion Disorder is what I was experiencing. My mind at the time had done an excellent job of hiding my current awareness and consciousness from all the trauma I had been through. It was not even a thought on my radar, nor was it something I would have been able to narrate verbally to anyone.

Trauma Was Never Talked About

Most of the medical professionals that I saw in the days of my paralysis, pseudo seizures, anxiety attacks, and subsequent hospitalization, were not focused on any underlying causes or trauma. Maybe some had uttered the words that I did not deal well with stress, but that’s about as far as it went. Trauma was neither talked about nor mentioned to me.

When one neurologist began seeing my condition through a different light, it was the beginning step on the road to recovery. In the initial checkup, she never uttered the word trauma or abuse or anything from my past. She just observed, went through her reflex checks, and asked many questions.

After more tests in the hospital ruling out just about everything that could be the cause of my situation, she came in my room and asked me a simple question. “Have you been through a lot in your life?” I may not be quoting the question verbatim but it is close. Even though I could barely get a word out verbally, with tears in my eyes I tried to answer her in the affirmative. Even at this moment, I could not have described what had happened to me or what I had been through.

Something Innately That I Knew

The next question she asked was “Would you like to talk to someone?” Again, I knew that in order to begin my own healing from this, that I needed to talk to someone. No one told me that this needed to happen. It was just something that I knew innately and so the next phase of my recovery began.

Even though I went through months of individual therapy in a psychiatric hospital and outpatient individual and group therapy, it was many years before I would truly begin remembering much of what I had experienced. The trauma I had been through was so intense that my mind went to great lengths to protect me from it. This made it difficult for many years as I grappled with trying to re-enter daily life while not understanding fully what had happened to me.

Is the story of trauma or abuse or whatever it is important in the early stages of healing? I really don’t think it is. If you are intentionally hiding it from yourself, this might be another story, but I don’t believe most Conversion Disorder patients are intentionally hiding something from themselves. It is a subconscious process and a lack of awareness.

We Feel Helpless

Unfortunately when we are faced with a horrible set of circumstances that Conversion Disorder often manifests, we demand to know the causes because as patients or caregivers, we feel helpless. While that is noble and understandable, it often does not help in the recovery.

More likely than not, Conversion Disorder is precipitated by some type of trauma. It may not be the immediate event that happens, but just the point of a long line of events that build up and trip the body’s nervous system. You as a caregiver or the patient may not remember or want to remember what happened, but it does not negate the fact that it exists. You may not even be aware that it happened, but again, it does not negate the fact that it exists.

Don’t Worry About The Story

My best advice, having gone through this condition, is don’t worry about the story. When the brain and nervous system is ready to handle and deal with the disclosure of such events, they will do this only when the time is ready. Anything before that moment will be too traumatic and the brain will attempt to protect the body at all costs. It is a built in biological mechanism.

Instead, focus on helping the person to learn how to relax and get in touch with their body. Feeling and sensing is by far the point that will get the person in touch with the core of what they are experiencing. Counseling through psychotherapy is essential to begin giving the patient the tools and the ability to form a groundwork where deep healing can happen.

While many caregivers get defensive when psychological problems or trauma may exist, this does nothing positive to help the Conversion Disorder patient. If you truly want to help the person heal, you will have to do your own healing at the same time because most likely your lives are interconnected in ways you may not even be aware of at that moment.

It May Take Time To Unravel

It is not all in their heads. Conversion Disorder patients have most likely experienced a series of events that has led them to the point where they are. These events may be observed to be simplistic and harmless to the average person, but in the brain and neural pathways of the Conversion Disorder patient, they may be anything but that. No one will know and understand what has happened, until the patient is able to heal, and this may take time to unravel. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. It took a lifetime most likely to build up, and it most likely will take time to heal.

Nurture the ability for the story or the trauma to come out, but don’t fixate upon it in detail. It will get you nowhere in the beginning. If the patient was able to speak out about what they had experienced, their bodu would not be so numbed and paralyzed from conversion disorder. Healing is not about telling the story, but reconnecting the brain to the sensations in the body.



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