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Psychiatry. 2011 Fall;74(3):187-206. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2011.74.3.187.

Culture and conversion disorder: implications for DSM-5.

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School of Psychological Sciences at the Universityof Manchester, England.


The diagnostic criteria and related features of conversion disorder are under revision for DSM-5, including the requirement that psychological factors accompany the symptoms or deficits in question (Criterion B) and whether conversion disorder should be re-labeled as a dissociative, rather than a somatoform, condition. We examined the cross-cultural evidence on the prevalence, characteristics, and associated features of pseudoneurological symptoms more generally, and conversion disorder in particular, in order to inform the ongoing re-evaluation of the conversion disorder category. We also examined the relationship between these constructs and dissociative symptoms and disorders across cultural groups. Searches were conducted of the mental health literature, particularly since 1994, regarding culture, race, or ethnicity factors related to conversion disorder. Many proposed DSM-5 revisions were supported, such as the elimination of Criterion B. We also found cross-cultural variability in predominant symptoms, disorder prevalence, and relationship with cultural syndromes. Additional information that may contribute to DSM-5 includes the elevated rates across cultures of traumatic exposure and psychiatric comorbidity in conversion disorder. Cross-culturally, conversion disorder is associated strongly with both dissociative and somatoform presentations, revealing no clear basis on which to locate the disorder in DSM-5. Careful consideration should be given to the possible alternatives.

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