This week's Medical Mondays question comes from Margo Berendsen, who asks:
"Can you explain how a person might go blind after a severe trauma, rather than by disease?"
Excellent topic. What used to be called hysterical blindness is now more correctly called conversion disorder, which is a subset of somatoform disorders, according to the DSM-IV.
In order to be considered a true case of conversion disorder, the person cannot be deliberately faking it and the symptoms cannot be explained by a known medical/neurologic illness. There is usually an associated trauma that is linked to the symptoms, sometimes many years prior to the onset of the symptom. This trauma could be a conflict, stressor, or other severe emotional trauma.
Besides blindness, other types of symptoms have been observed, such as:
- inability to speak (aphonia)
- loss of hearing
- movement problems (like getting stuck in a position, or having a tremor)
Thanks Margo for the great question!