Teen Conversion Disorder: An Unknown but Serious Diagnosis

Teen conversion disorder is not well known. It’s an illness that has neurological symptoms such as numbness, blindness, or paralysis but without any known psychological or medical causes. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies Conversion Disorder as a Somatoform Disorder, meaning it’s an illness that has neurological roots but its symptoms are expressed through the body.

Teen Conversion Disorder

The name of this disorder stems from the fact that an adolescent with this disorder converts the psychological or neurological imbalance into physical symptoms. This disorder can at times can connect with stressful events. For instance, if your teen has experienced a recent loss or trauma, or even if the amount of stress in his or her life has increased dramatically, and symptoms of teen conversion disorder are present, then there could be a correlation between the two. However, it is often difficult to assign a cause to the symptoms of Conversion Disorder. What characterizes teen conversion disorder is that its symptoms are not caused by any other biological reason, such as a physical illness.

Common symptoms of teen conversion disorder include:

  • Impaired coordination or balance
  • Weakness or paralysis in parts or all of the body
  • Impaired speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fainting
  • Loss of a sense of touch
  • Tingling in arms and legs

To Diagnose

In order to properly diagnose an adolescent with this disorder, a clinician would need to rule out any neurological or medical causes as well whether a teen is pretending. Pretending to have this disorder is feigning. This disorder is unique in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in that it requires the exclusion of any deliberate feigning.

The frequency of Conversion Disorder is not well known primarily because of the challenge in the diagnosis process. Nonetheless, it is rare to diagnose a teen with this disorder. In fact, Conversion Disorder can be present in individuals at any age; however, it is even more rare in children under 10 years of age or in the elderly. Research shows that there is an increase in the appearance of this diagnosis for those who are in their mid to late 30’s.


Furthermore, the presence of this disorder appears to manifest more in females than it does in males. The documented occurrence is between 2 and 6 female patients for every male. There are a few reasons behind this. The first is that females are socialized to suppress stress and emotions, leading to the manifestation of that stress in a physical form. “Teenage girls are very susceptible to drama and each other’s moods,” said Clinical Psychologist, Nancy Molitor, which would add to their levels of social pressure. Another reason is that females are more likely to seek medical treatment when symptoms arise. Which might skew the numbers in clinical research.

Treatment Options

There are a variety of different treatment options for Conversion Disorder in teens. Occasionally, the symptoms will disappear on their own. Methods include:

  • hypnosis
  • psychotherapy
  • physical therapy
  • stress management
  • or a combination of these



If you feel that your levels of stress are increasing and you’re seeing the above symptoms in yourself, seeking mental health assistance is the next best step. Doing so can facilitate getting the proper treatment and support your overall mental health.