Psychosocial interventions for conversion disorder

Conversion disorder is an alteration or loss of physical functioning suggestive of a physical disorder that is thought to be due to a psychological stressor or conflict. Psychosocial interventions are thought to be helpful for people with conversion disorder. We conducted a review of all relevant randomised trials of psychosocial interventions, but were only able to include three small studies. There were no conclusive results and at present, the benefits or harms of psychosocial interventions for conversion disorder are unclear.

Authors' conclusions: 

Randomised studies are possible in this field. The use of psychosocial interventions for conversion disorder requires more research and it is not possible to draw any conclusions about their potential benefits or harms from the included studies.

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Background: 

Conversion disorder is an alteration or loss of physical functioning suggestive of a physical disorder that is thought to be due to a psychological stressor or conflict. The fact that many theories about the cause of conversion disorder focus on psychological and social factors would suggest that a psychosocial intervention might be of most benefit.

Objectives: 

To investigate the efficacy of psychosocial interventions on people diagnosed with conversion disorder compared with standard care, a biological intervention or another psychosocial intervention.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Group Trials Register (May 2004), various databases on OVID (February 2004), handsearched reference lists and textbooks on conversion disorder and contacted relevant authors.

Selection criteria: 

We included all randomised controlled trials that compared psychosocial interventions for conversion disorder with standard care or other interventions (biological or psychosocial).

Data collection and analysis: 

We reliably selected, quality assessed and extracted data from the studies. For dichotomous outcomes we calculated a relative risk with its associated 95% confidence interval and a number needed to treat. For continuous data we calculated a weighted mean difference.

Main results: 

The search identified 260 references, 217 were clearly not relevant to this review and excluded on the basis of their titles and abstracts, 40 more were excluded after reading the full papers (the reasons are given in the excluded studies tables) and only three studies (total n =119) met the inclusion criteria. One study was concerned with paradoxical injunction therapy and the other two studied the value of hypnosis. The three studies had different interventions and control groups so the results could not be combined. All of the studies were of poor methodological quality and it is therefore difficult to place much value on the results of the studies. We were unable to include some data because of poor reporting.

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