Conversion disorder, also known as functional neurological symptom disorder, is characterized by symptoms affecting the nervous system. These symptoms cannot be fully attributed to physical illness or injury. In some cases, the cause of conversion disorder is not well known. However, for some patients, the onset of conversion disorder can occur rapidly after a period of psychological conflict, or emotional or physical suffering. Those with conversion disorder can experience blindness, paralysis, tingling in the extremities, lack of muscle control (ataxia), loss of senses of smell and/or touch, or loss of voice. In addition, some patients may experience seizures or hallucinations.

Conversion disorder commonly begins in adolescence or adulthood. However, younger children can develop conversion disorder and experience enough distress to disrupt normal routines. Those with a mental illness, dissociative disorder, or personality disorder are at greater risk of developing conversion disorder. Diagnoses of conversion disorder usually occurs when a patient exhibits at least one symptom of neurological dysfunction, does not have any apparent physical problems causing the symptoms, has problems that cannot be tied to another disease, and experiences enough distress to seek medical treatment. Patients with conversion disorder are treated at the Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program at Kennedy Krieger Institute, which is committed to providing an interdisciplinary treatment model. 

Our Team

An experienced, interdisciplinary care team works with each patient and family to manage a child's pain by promoting healthy daily functioning and pain coping skills using an interdisciplinary rehabilitation model. Our team includes:

  • Pediatric pain fellowship-trained physician
  • Child psychiatrists
  • Pediatricians
  • Pediatric rehabilitation physicians
  • Pediatric psychologists/cognitive behavioral therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Social workers
  • Care coordinators
  • Case managers
  • Educators
  • Child life specialists
  • Nurses/nurse practitioners
  • Therapeutic recreation specialists

Our Treatment Approach

We offer a multimodal approach to pain management that includes:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy  (e.g. deep controlled diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, interactive distraction, guided visual imagery, cognitive restructuring, biofeedback, mindfulness, meditation)
  • Physical Therapy (functional, manual and visceral therapies, heat/cold)
  • Occupational therapy (activities of daily living)
  • Non-narcotic pain medications
  • Interventional pain procedures under sedation
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Other novel and emerging treatment modalities for pain management

As one of the few hospitals in the country to offer interventional pain services for children guided by imaging in an operating room, we offer the following procedures:

  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Facet joint injections
  • Sacroiliac joint injections
  • Piriformis injections
  • Muscle and joint injections
  • Occipital nerve blocks
  • Abdominal blocks (e.g., transverse abdominis plane [TAP] and rectus sheath blocks)
  • Intercostal nerve blocks
  • Sternum injections
  • Bursa injections
  • Scar injections
  • Peripheral nerve blocks
  • Trigger point injections