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Conversion

 

Explanations > Behaviors > Coping > Conversion

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

  

Description

Conversion as a defense mechanism occurs where cognitive tensions manifest themselves in physical symptoms. The symptom may well be symbolic and dramatic and it often acts as a communication about the situation. Extreme symptoms may include paralysis, blindness, deafness, becoming mute or having a seizure. Lesser symptoms include tiredness, headaches and twitches.

Example

A person's arm becomes suddenly paralyzed after they have been threatening to hit someone else.

Discussion

Conversion is a subconscious effect that can be as scary for the person as it is for those around them. It is different from psychosomatic disorders where real health changes are seen (such as the appearance of ulcers). It also is more than malingering, where conscious exaggeration of reported symptoms are used to gain attention.

So what?

When a stressed person suddenly becomes paralyzed or otherwise physically handicapped, consider the possibility that it may be a case of conversion. With time, the symptom will go away, so act to reduce their stress, for example taking them away from the initial situation. Explaining conversion to them may help.

See also

Somatization

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