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The role of psychiatrists in diagnosing conversion disorder: a mixed-methods analysis

Authors Kanaan R, Armstrong D, Wessely S

Received 14 September 2015

Accepted for publication 30 November 2015

Published 11 May 2016 Volume 2016:12 Pages 1181—1184


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder

Richard A Kanaan,1,2 David Armstrong,3 Simon Wessely2

1Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin Health, Heidelberg, VIC, Australia; 2Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Weston Education Centre, Denmark Hill, 3Department of General Practice, King’s College London, Capital House, London, UK

Objective: Since DSM-5 removed the requirement for a psychosocial formulation, neurologists have been able to make the diagnosis of conversion disorder without psychiatric input. We sought to examine whether neurologists and specialist psychiatrists concurred with this approach.
Design: We used mixed methods, first surveying all the neurologists in the UK and then interviewing the neuropsychiatrists in a large UK region on the role of psychiatrists in diagnosing conversion disorder.
Results: Of the surveyed neurologists, 76% did not think that psychiatrists were essential for the diagnosis and 71% thought that psychiatrists did not even consider conversion disorder when referred a case. The neuropsychiatrists who were interviewed held complex models of conversion disorder. They believed all cases could be explained psychosocially in theory, but the nature of the diagnostic encounter often prevented it in practice; all felt that psychosocial formulation could be very helpful and some felt that it was essential to diagnosis.
Conclusion: Although neurologists do not think psychiatrists are required for diagnosing conversion disorder, specialist psychiatrists disagree, at least in some cases.

Keywords: functional neurological disorders, classification, qualitative research, survey, psychiatric formulation

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