vol. 1, num. 1, 2003

Dissociation
Dissociative Phenomena. Questions and Answers.

Editors: Mario Di Fiorino and Maria Luisa Figueira

Is Conversion a Dissociative Symptom?

Summary.
Background: DSM-IV continues to classify conversion disorder separately from the dissociative disorders, together with the somatoform disorders. This is done on the basis that conversion disorder presents with bodily symptoms, whereas the dissociative disorders concern mental symptoms. It remains a clinical research question, though, whether symptoms of conversion disorder and the dissociative disorders overlap in their clinical presentation as has been maintained by ICD-10 in which conversion disorder belongs to the group of dissociative [conversion] disorders.
Methods: In a sample of 130 clinical and non-clinical participants, conversion items and dissociative items (as measured by the State Scale of Dissociation / SSD) were examined by Pearson correlation coefficients, principal components factor analyses, and confidence intervals.
Results: The conversion symptoms clustered with the other dissociative symptoms on the one general factor that ran through the entire SSD, accounting for 61 % of the variance. Conversion symptoms correlated highly significantly with the total SSD score, and further behaved like the other dissociative symptoms in their presentation in dissociative disorders, as compared with other psychiatric disorders and control subjects.
Conclusion: Conversion symptoms are closely related clinically to other dissociative symptoms. Thus, these results support the ICD-10 categorisation of conversion disorder among dissociative disorders. Notwithstanding these results, other ways to differentiate between conversion disorder and the dissociative disorders may still have merit. For example, a study of the neurophysiological correlates of dissociative and conversion symptoms might elucidate the merits of this differentiation.


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