BACKGROUND: According to one of the diagnostic criteria of the DSM IV for conversion disorder there has to be a temporal relationship between psychological factors and the onset, or the worsening, of the symptoms. This criterion has been omitted in the DSM-5. Another criterion, namely that the symptoms are not produced intentionally, has also been abandoned. A new recommendation is that therapists should look for neurological symptoms that support the diagnosis. AIM: To investigate whether studies support the changes in the criteria. METHOD: We searched literature using PubMed. RESULTS: When the symptoms first appear, trauma or stress in 37% of patients is of a physical rather than a psychological nature. Different forms of stress were found in equal proportions (20%) in patients with or without conversion disorder. There are no specific stressors, except possibly in patients with dysphonia. The percentages of childhood abuse vary widely, namely from o to 85%. The characteristic phenomenon of 'la belle indifference' occurs in only 3% of patients with conversion disorder versus only 2% of controls. Most of the 'positive' clinical tests for partial paralysis and sensory and gait disorders are highly specific. There are no reliable tests for distinguishing conversion disorder from simulation. CONCLUSION: The changes of the criteria are supported by recent studies.

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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Vermeulen, M.B.M, & Willems, M.H.A. (2015). Conversion disorder: From DSM IV to DSM 5 or from a psychiatric to a neurological diagnosis. Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie, 57(8), 569–576. Retrieved from