Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Conversion (Somatoform) Disorder

If you read my book or some of the blog entries I have posted about, you will quickly see that I personally suffered from a conversion disorder. There are many names for it which include hysterical paralysis or a more common term of somatoform disorder. For me, the situation turned into complete paralysis with loss of speech, feeling, sensitivity and brain function including seizures.

At the time, I did not think there was any way through this and it seemed hopeless. I experienced the seizures and a feeling of being so tired that I could barely stay awake for any length of time. Test after test was done and at first they diagnosed it as MS (Multiple Sclerosis). Imagine being 26 years old and told you have MS. I was not prepared to hear that and I'm sure no one is every prepared to deal with the trauma that a diagnosis such as Multiple Sclerosis. In those days, there was no internet and so even though I knew very little about MS, I knew it was not good.

As with most episodes of a conversion disorder (somatoform disorder), there is usually some underlying trauma and then when a certain trigger or switch is thrown, the two events collide to bring about conditions which are not easily diagnosed. I often explain it to people that it is like an electrical circuit in a house. If you start putting to many items on a circuit and then turn start turning them on, at some point they will flip the breaker. The same thing happens to our body where we continue to put one stress and trauma on after another. It builds up and something in the body ends up breaking or giving way to a shut down. The nervous system if not properly tuned up can only handle so much before it says - that's it - I'm outta here!

Unfortunately, all too often somatoform disorders are misdiagnosed by well intentioned specialists. I think back to the days when I was going through this and each doctor would run test after test to trying to explain what was going on. Early tests indicated Multiple Sclerosis but after I was started on a drug treatment (which was some type of steroid medication), my body had a severe reaction to it and started in with seizures and violent trembling and shaking throughout my body. After weeks of MRI's, blood work, a trip to the Hospital Emergency Room by ambulance, most of the doctors were giving up. Each time, I would be sent home with no explanation of why things were happening. Each time, friends would have to help lift me in and out of a car and carry me into my apartment as I could do none of this for myself. I could not care for myself during this time, yet no doctor or emergency room would admit me to the hospital.

Fortunately, some doctor got me in touch with a neurologist. It did not take long for the neurologist to begin questioning the tests that had already been done on me. She was the wise one that began to ask the questions and put things together that there was something behind all of this and it was not physical. Once she had me meet with a psychiatrist and as I began talking to the psychiatrist, I took my first steps that day. That was the beginning of my recovery. It was not an easy road and it took great will power and determination to keep going when all seemed hopeless for me physically.

Back then, I was not aware of the work that Dr. Paul Canali, D.C. was doing with trauma healing. In fact, I didn't even truly understand what a conversion disorder was at the time and it took some time before the doctors even told me this was what happened. It is a very rare condition but I know there are more out there that go through this. I have found there is healing from this and from the trauma that I suffered. I also learned that to heal the trauma in my life, I needed to go in and touch the depths of it which were located within my body and my mind. It was through that connection that I really found my way through deep healing and started to reclaim my life.

There really is hope for someone if they are experiencing this situation in their life. No one needs to go through what I went through because tests and medications are not going to heal it in the end. When I first met Dr. Canali and began listening to what he was talking about, the concepts were foreign to me. You don't hear these things talked about in our every day world. However, my body knew without a doubt that what he was saying was exactly what had taken place in my life. My body also realized that he had discovered some of the answers that I had longed to find in my life. Through his work, I have changed completely from what I used to be and I have begun to discover just who I am and what I am made of. My physical ailments from depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, stomach ulcers, stiff necks, muscle tension, anger, despair, and the list goes on - these things are no longer in power over me. I have found freedom from them by finding the necessary tools within myself to move through all that comes up in my life.

Further Reading

  1. Autonomic Nervous System by Dr. Paul Canali

  2. Hope And Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly

(Copyright 11/08/10 - Use by permission only)


  1. I just came home from getting my eeg results, after being hospitalized for 5 days with what doctors thought were some kind of seizures. Then I had to wait two weeks for the eeg and two weeks for the result to be told that the results were perfectly normal and that my diagnosis is 'probably' conversion disorder. I'm to have an MRI, followed with a visit to a neurologist and also go see a pyschiatrist to get further medications. I have many similar symptoms to what you posted on your blog, and have not been able to drive since Oct. 30th. I live in the country, which is very inconvenient. I'm a little relieved though to know that there are other people out there with these similar symptoms, or past symptoms and want to learn more about it. Thanks.

  2. When I went through this, they put me through test after test until one neurologist finally said, whoa, let's look at this differently. If it wouldn't have been for her, I'm not sure where I would be. I couldn't begin to take care of myself and yet, they would send me home every time.

    In 1991, I didn't have the internet to really search so I had to struggle on my own to recover. The doctors really didn't know what to do and so somewhere deep inside of me, I found the strength to fight my way back into life.

    Now I've learned some intense healing bodywork that has greatly helped me release stuff and come back into my body. It is interesting though that if I'm on the table in one of these sessions, the person doing this work can take me right back to feeling paralyzed but then it dissipates.

    The more you can go in and sense/connect and feel your body - the more you'll find your way through it. It isn't easy to do that. Just keep searching for things that work and don't be afraid to try things the doctors don't suggest.

    Most people today would never be able to tell I was once paralyzed. It was a big wake up call in life for me. There is hope to recover and it isn't always easy, but there is hope.

  3. I was diagnosed with conversion, probable somatization disorder only to be told that it truly was MS as the MRIs confirmed it. The doctors kept refusing to either run the MRIs for MS and then would not acknowledge the spots "artifacts" that kept reappearing. Bad disease. Better tan wrong diagnosis.

    1. Amazing how things get misdiagnosed. For me, they kept going back to the MS because they could see the spots. Hopefully some researcher out there will look into this more, because it may be a key to some knowledge that is needed.