Thursday, February 10, 2011

Conversion Disorder by the Mayo Clinic on CNN Health

I saw this posted on about conversion disorders with the source of the information being the Mayo Clinic. The link to the article is CNN-Conversion Disorders.

Since I know first hand what a conversion disorder is, I wanted to spread some information along. All too often, no one really understands what this is, let alone that it can be treated successfully. Complete loss of your physical body in a conversion disorder is a rare condition but I believe there are people out there that are living with this condition rather than truly healing from it. So many times the medical doctors do not understand this and so a patient is left to struggle through this situation which is itself a traumatic experience.

A conversion disorder is when psychological stress or trauma becomes manifested physically in the body. Movement or senses are often affected with sometimes paralysis, blindness or difficultly swallowing being the results. While symptoms of conversion disorders can be severe, people often recover within a few weeks.

Conversion disorders are usually caused by some underlying stress or traumatic incident. Trauma can exist within the body for years and when the right switch is flipped in the person's life (like another experience connecting back to the original trauma), then the body begins to shut down. The current experience may have absolutely no resemblance to what happened in the original trauma but just one part of it that connects the subconscious mind with the trauma can lead to a conversion disorder.

There is much more to a conversion disorder that you can read about on the CNN page link above.

For me, I went through a conversion disorder in 1991. It took several doctors, test and more tests and trips to the hospital, an MRI, more doctors, an ambulance ride and many unnerving moments of despair to figure out what was wrong with me. I was misdiagnosed at first with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and while the xrays and initial testing showed that this was what I had, the doctors were too narrow in viewing their diagnosis. It was several weeks before I finally got referred to a neurologist.

When the neurologist first examined me, she had the curious look on her face wondering what was going on with me. She decided to admit me to the hospital and run further tests. Up until that point, each doctor was sending me home because there was nothing they could do for me. Yet, I could not take care of myself because I could not walk and I could barely move, eat or function. I never did understand why the doctors kept sending me home instead of admitting me to the hospital because if someone is not able to physically take care of themselves and function, is that not what a hospital is for?

After all the tests were completed and I had a near death experience (or however one would state this), the neurologist came into the room and asked me one simple question that forever changed my life. She asked me if I had anything bad happen to me and if I needed to talk about it. Of course, I don't exactly remember the words she used to ask the question but I replied in my slow and difficult speech, that yes, I needed to talk to someone.

She set me up with a psychiatrist and that first day I talked to him was the first day I was able to take a step. To me, it was no coincidence, that these two things happened together. As I began to talk a little more, I soon found myself able to walk to the bathroom, than out the door of my hospital room than down the hall several feet.

I did spend several weeks going through intense counseling in a psychiatric hospital which greatly helped me and gave me the time to rest and relax. While that was not easy to do, I had really not recalled all the trauma and abuse I had went through in my life. These things would come at a much later time where I would spend considerable time healing through these experiences in counseling.

However, I did not fully begin to heal my body from the trauma and even the experience of the conversion disorder until I met Dr. Paul Canali in 2003. When I first heard him talk about the impact trauma has on a body, I knew first hand he was talking a language my mind and my body understood. He was the first person that helped me understand what had happened to me in the conversion disorder. Up until that point, I had truly been in the dark about this condition. Since that first introduction, I have healed in ways I never thought were possible. I no longer fear a conversion disorder and I no longer live in daily fear of my body shutting down on me. However, to say that I never think about my body shutting down would be a lie because once your body has failed you in a conversion disorder, there is an altered sense of awareness and fear that you hold. The thing is, I don't live in daily fear of that because I know there is a way through it, if my body tries to shut down. Through the healing I've gone through, I don't experience the shut down symptoms like were once normal for me.

If you saw me today, you would not have any idea that I went through the conversion disorder and almost breathed my last breath. You would not realize that I had been paralyzed with almost no feeling in my body and that my memory had went away. There would be no way for you tell that my speech was almost non existent and that I suffered through convulsions, depression, anxiety and suicide. Life is completely different for me and each day I'm learning how to recover more and more of my body and my memory.

About The Picture:
The above picture was taking of me in the early stages of the paralysis. I could still sit up from time to time but I grew exhausted easily and spent considerable time sleeping. If I wasn't awake and sitting up, I was dealing with convulsions and trembling and shaking. In that picture, just holding up the balloon was a difficult thing for me.

Further Reading:
1) Conversion (Somatoform) Disorder (Blog Post 11/09/10)
2) When Life Fell Apart (Blog Post 7/31/09)
3) Hope And Possibility Through Trauma - Book By Don Shetterly
4) Recovery From A Conversion Disorder (Blog Post 7/11/11)

Blog Post & Images (c) 2/3/11 Don Shetterly - use by permission only


  1. I usually do not leave a response, however after reading a few of the responses on this page "Conversion Disorder by the Mayo Clinic on CNN Health". I do have a couple of questions for you if you don't mind. Is it only me or do a few of the comments appear like they are coming from brain dead people? :-P And, if you are posting at additional online social sites, I'd like to follow everything fresh you have to post. Could you list of all of your social community pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

    1. I am not sure what comments you are referring to so I cannot comment on this statement.

      If you wish to find out more about how to follow me or other websites that I publish, please see the "About Don Shetterly" at the top of the page. It gives links to many different places that I maintain and write for.

      Thanks, Don

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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