A Hermeneutic-Phenomenological Study of Conversion Disorder: A Patient’s Perspective
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Conversion disorder (CD) is a mental illness with a long and complicated history. The disorder continues to be difficult to diagnose and treat. This paper presents the results of a hermeneutic-phenomenological inquiry into the lived experience of the disorder. It is hoped that the insights discovered can help physicians work with clients who have a somatic based illness. Written journal entries compiled during the first symptoms of the illness, a search for a diagnosis, receiving a diagnosis of conversion disorder and experiences after diagnosis were used. Themes and sub themes were identified until the “lived experience” of conversion disorder was articulated. The findings of this study reveal that the lived experience of CD can disrupt a person such that they have a disintegration of self and world. This is a result of the break in self-concept, sense of coherence and self-efficacy. Five themes discovered using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). They are: 1) a break in the sense of coherence and self-concept; the subjective experience of a sudden, significant, alteration of physical capacity and wellness. This includes perceptual confusion and emotions such as fear, that arise from such a change 2) the negotiation of emotions of guilt, shame and vulnerability resulting from illness 3) the change in self-concept as a direct consequence of illness that is not biological in origin or attributed to volition 4) the need for support to navigate the significant change in self-concept, break in sense of coherence and self-efficacy 5) acceptance as the means to create a continuation of self from the past into the future.