Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

To be diagnosed with conversion disorder, you must meet the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

To be diagnosed with conversion disorder:

  • You must have one or more symptoms you can't control that affect body movement or your senses, which can't be explained by a neurological or other medical condition.
  • Your symptoms may be related to a stressful event or trauma, either physical or psychological, even though that may not always be the case.
  • You're not producing symptoms on purpose or getting some intended benefit from the symptoms.
  • Your symptoms aren't fully explained by a general medical condition, drug use or a culturally accepted behavior, such as an experience at a religious ritual.
  • Your symptoms must cause significant stress or difficulty in social, work or other settings.
  • Your symptoms aren't better accounted for by another mental health problem. In this case, psychological tests should be requested by a mental health specialist.

There are no standard tests to check for conversion disorder. The tests will depend on what kind of signs and symptoms you have — the main purpose is to rule out any medical or neurological disease. Tests may include:

  • Simple tests. These tests don't require any special equipment and are quick and painless. For example, your doctor checks for normal reflexes to help rule out a physical cause for your signs and symptoms.
  • X-rays or other imaging tests. These tests may help your doctor confirm that your symptoms aren't caused by an injury or neurological or other physical conditions that might cause similar symptoms.
  • An electroencephalogram (EEG) scan. An EEG can help rule out a neurological cause of seizure symptoms. This test is a painless procedure to detect electrical activity in your brain. It's used to test for epilepsy and other brain disorders.

Diagnosis can be tricky because a doctor must rule out medical conditions with a physical cause. Conversion disorder can mimic a number of other health problems, such as:

  • Myasthenia gravis — a muscle weakness disorder
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome — an uncommon disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves
  • Neurological disorders — for example, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy
  • Stroke
  • Lupus
  • Spinal cord injury
  • HIV/AIDS
Feb. 27, 2014