Conversion Syndrome

(13 Posts)
HormonalHeap Fri 08-May-15 12:04:25

Does anyone have any experience of this with their teen? My ds a few years back sprained his ankle. What should have been a non-event just seemed to get worse until it hurt so much he couldn't walk. Consultant found nothing physically wrong and diagnosed Conversion Syndrome, where the patient actually feels the pain although there is no reason for it other than anxiety.

Ds is now 15, at a highly academic school and is regularly ill with headaches and stomach cramps. He even looks ill, certainly believes he is, and sleeps all day. These 'episodes' tend to last a couple of days.

I have tried talking to him about what is making him anxious but he says he isn't. It upsets and scares me beyond measure to think he has a mental health problem. Has anyone ever heard of this?

ragged Fri 08-May-15 12:20:41

Think a friend had this, after tearing ligaments.
Massage & physio got her thru, but was awful for months.

DandyDan Fri 08-May-15 16:38:03

Yes. One of my children has had conversion disorder for seven years and at moments and periods of major stress and anxiety, loses their sight ie. cannot see at all. The "sight" vanishes instantly and returns minutes, hours, or sometimes several days later when the stress is talked through/overcome/removed, although working out what the unconscious anxiety might be and how to alleviate it is a task in itself. It is wholly related to psychological stress and can go away for several months at a time and then re-surface.

If your consultant has actually diagnosed conversion disorder, you should ask them for a referral to CAMHS for something like CBT therapy - the pressures of academic stress in teenage years is often a trigger for conversion disorder, and learning how to manage anxiety and the various pressures of life so that they don't create physical symptoms is very important. It's only like someone getting a migraine because of stress, but simply a different bodily response rather than a pain in the head.

If you wish to PM me re this subject, I am happy to share more information if I can help.

eyebags63 Sat 09-May-15 16:25:53

Although the problems are psychologically based the symptoms experienced with be very real and physically scary to your DS. It is a viscous circle because the anxiety causes symptoms and the symptoms cause more psychological distress.

Some well meaning (but ignorant) people may say things like "it's all in your head, pull yourself together" and so on, but he needs professional help.

Personally I would want to make absolutely sure there is no physical mechanism for the pain/symptoms too. It is too easy for some doctors to dismiss symptoms they can't explain as psychological in nature.

HormonalHeap Sun 17-May-15 23:51:47

Thank you so much for your replies. So sorry for delay but have had no wifi since posted!

DandyDan thank you. Conversion syndrome was diagnosed previously in my son but these symptoms are now different in that they do not affect any of his senses and he does not feel pain, more a profound feeling of being unwell with sickness, stomach cramps and headache. He sleeps most of the day, waking only to eat.

He had some CBT therapy last year with a psychologist for anxiety which were worse than useless, and very expensive. Perhaps we just saw the wrong person.

Eyebags63 we have ruled out Physical causes as time when unwell he had a blood test for viruses which came back negative, and saw a consultant for his headaches which also revealed nothing.

DandyDan Mon 18-May-15 20:26:33

Hi again, HormonalHeap.

The stomach cramps and headaches could be both very real and as a result of the stress your son may be experiencing from the pressures of education. I suspect we were just very lucky with our experience of CAMHS and my child's paediatric consultant who had dealt with cases of conversion disorder before - not simply affecting the senses either. They were able to give my teen weekly sessions for over a year, including some family therapy sessions too. When younger, my teen would suffer headaches on days that were difficult at school, and on a few occasions as soon as they took a tablet to help the headache, the sight would vanish but the headache would vanish instantly too.

I am writing this whilst my child, now 21, is sat - unable to see - on the sofa nearby: due to a bout of anxiety over an essay deadline for university finals due in this week, plus a total internet failure for three days this weekend meant they couldn't complete their research to finish the part-written essay, and sight vanished just before noon today.

I hope you are able to discuss the situation with your son and the possible options which might help him find a way through his feelings of illness.

stayathomegardener Mon 18-May-15 20:32:00

Watching with interest as DD 16 has similar, legs go numb and gets exhausted.
Whereabouts are you? DD saw a very good Neurologist

Corygal Mon 18-May-15 20:51:52

"It upsets and scares me beyond measure to think he has a mental health problem." Stop right there - it really isn't the end of the world these days, you know, CBT works very well as do other therapies. And your son is at risk of absorbing your fear, which will make him worse.

He can't pull himself together - you can. Be there for him. Calm, perspective, and practical help is what he needs. If you really can't cope, talk to the GP about your own issues before you try and tackle his.

DandyDan Mon 18-May-15 22:04:39

Many places also do mindfulness courses to help with stress and anxiety - not to eliminate these because there will always be stress in people's lives but to learn good ways of how to manage these feelings effectively when they naturally occur.

HormonalHeap Mon 18-May-15 23:05:39

DandyDan thank you so much. I have also noticed that if my son is ill, it will usually be on a Thursday. I am so sorry you are still dealing with this, as I was told that conversion is most common in the teen years. It must be so very frightening both for you and your child when he/she is unable to see.

I'm wondering if there are any nurologists specialising in conversion- Stayathomegardner im in the London area. The problem for me was that when ds saw the psychiatrist he was not in an anxious state, and therefore harder to treat.

I am not able to discuss the situation with my son as he gets very upset and angry when I doubt that there is a physical cause for his illness.

Corygal- what are these other therapies apart from CBT? I don't need to discuss my issues as I don't have any, save for helping my son.

DandyDan I'm so hoping you ds/dd meets their essay deadline this week and you are all able to relax.

anthropology Tue 19-May-15 07:45:07

I'm not sure its helpful, but in terms of stomach aches, headaches and sleeping, my DD had these symptoms, when she was struggling with depression. In some ways, because we focused on her physical symptoms through childhood (real pain, illnesses and real temperatures etc) I think I missed the signs of her sinking deeper into depression. My advice would be to push for camhs assessments via your GP or consultant, and say to your son, that its not you don't believe him, but if he learns relaxation and CBT strategies, it could help him 'cope with pain' and at the same time they can assess his mood. In pain management clinics, CBT is offered these days so will the hospital offer that route ?. I understand if you are fearful of a mental health problem, but if there is one, its an illness, and there is help out there and the earlier support is accessed, the better, you just have to fight harder for treatment and if he sees therapists, they should be specialist adolescent ones. good luck.

stayathomegardener Tue 19-May-15 10:14:29

The neurologist DD saw was Dr Silver, we are Cheshire based.
He has an amazing reputation.
DD apparently has hidden migraines and a sleep disorder (never gets headaches), her treatment is a night time sedatitive, which comes with its own problems but DD decided they could not be worse than her current state. She is improving, although not quick enough for a 16 year old she thinks!
Interesting your son has stomach aches they can be migraine linked.
It is so hard seeing your child like this. DD says quite cheerfully"Ohhh I can't feel my legs from the waist down" and my heart goes cold, just keep repeating to myself her MRI and bloods were fine.
You have my sympathys.

HormonalHeap Tue 19-May-15 19:01:33

Anthropology, hank you for your advice. my ds has told me a couple of years back that he found a leaflet listing signs of depression and he thought he had every on of them. I agreed with him and that's why we saw the Psycologist. He doesn't seem depressed at the moment, but is of average intelligence in a very high achieving school so plenty of room for anxiety. How long does it generally take to be assessed by and start treatment with cahms?

Thank you Stayathomegardener, hopefully your dd will be able to wean herself off the sedatives or reduce the dosage. At least she is equipped to know what works for her as she moves towards adulthood.

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