The Impact of Early Trauma and Recent Life-Events on Symptom Severity in Patients With Conversion Disorder

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Although the presence of psychological stress factors in the evolution of conversion symptoms forms an important criterion for the DSM-IV diagnosis of conversion disorder, little is known about the nature and timing of these stress factors. Fifty-four patients with conversion disorder and 50 control patients with an affective disorder were screened for life events experienced in the year before the symptom onset. Conversion patients did not differ from control patients in the number or severity of life events, but showed a significant relation between the recent life events and the severity of conversion symptoms. Especially life events with respect to work and relationships contributed to this effect. These results remained when controlling for the previously found effects of childhood traumatization on the severity of conversion symptoms. The findings imply that conversion symptoms may be elicited by a complex of early and later negative life events and that traditional unifactorial trauma-theories of conversion disorder should be replaced by multifactorial stress models.

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