How to Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Conversion Disorder in Virginia
This article explains what conversion disorder is, how it is diagnosed, who is more likely to be affected, and how to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if conversion disorder and its symptoms affect your ability to work.
We have helped hundreds of disabled adults and children qualify for Social Security disability benefits when their mental disorder impacts their functioning at home, school, or work. If you’re looking for help with your disability claim – either applying for SSD benefits, appealing a SSD denial, or presenting your case at a Social Security disability hearing – contact Corey Pollard today for a free consultation.
What is Conversion Disorder?
Conversion disorder, also called functional neurological symptom disorder, is a mental health condition in which an individual has symptoms similar to those seen in neurological illness without any apparent physical cause. Conversion disorders were described as far back as the 1800s as a type of hysteria and have been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders since it was first published.
Common symptoms of conversion disorder include:
- Abnormal body movements, such as tremors, jerky movements, gait abnormalities (limping or foot drop);
- Altered skin sensation (numbness, tingling, or pain);
- Blindness or vision problems that are temporary;
- Loss of consciousness or blackout spells (temporary coma);
- Pseudoseizures (i.e. when the body shakes like an epileptic seizure but the person does not have epilepsy);
- Temporary deafness;
- Temporary inability to speak or trouble finding words;
- Temporary paralysis or muscle weakness affecting one side of the body; or,
- Temporary paralysis.
Many conversion disorder symptoms come and go quickly. They do not stay for an extended period. Because of how quickly the symptoms may begin, those who suffer from conversion disorder may seek emergency treatment. It is common for emergency room physicians to refer these individuals to psychiatry for an in-house consultation or to the neurological ward for further evaluation. At that point testing and examination will begin to determine the cause of the symptoms.
Who is at Risk for Conversion Disorder?
You may have an increased risk of conversion disorder if any of the following describe you:
- You have a difficult time dealing with stressful situations and people in a healthy way. This means that instead of trying to work through problems calmly and rationally, you tend to lash out with anger or get irritated easily.
- You were born with a neurological disease, such as epilepsy.
- You have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder or panic disorder.
- You had a traumatic childhood where you were exposed to abuse, neglect, and violence.
As you can see, conversion disorder is though to be a response to mental stress or trauma that may not be readily apparent.
Conversion disorder affects women more often than men. In America conversion disorder is 2-3x more common in women than in men.
Diagnostic Criteria for Conversion Disorder
Mental health professionals evaluate four criterion when determining whether a person has conversion disorder:
1. Does the person have any symptoms affecting motor or sensory functioning? This is the key feature of conversion disorder.
2. Have medical professionals excluded neurological disease as a cause of the symptoms? Conversion disorder may be a diagnosis of exclusion. Neurological, orthopedic, and vision testing may be necessary to make the diagnosis of conversion disorder.
3. Does another mental disorder explain the symptoms better? Conversion disorder is often present with other mental health impairments. Conversion disorder symptoms are common in persons with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia. It’s important for the mental health professional to make sure another condition isn’t responsible for the symptoms.
4. Do the symptoms of conversion disorder cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning? Persons with conversion disorder may have significant physical and mental disability that affects their ability to work full-time. This is not a mild disorder.
SSDI or SSI Benefits for Conversion Disorder
There are two ways for an adult to get Social Security disability. As a disability attorney for conversion disorder sufferers throughout Virginia, we’ve helped persons qualify both ways: by meeting a disability listing and by proving that their residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment precludes work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy based on their age, education, and transferable job skills.
Conversion disorder is a somatic symptom and related disorder. Social Security disability listing 12.07 covers these types of disorders. You can meet the listing for conversion disorder and get approved for disability benefits if you have medical proof of one or more of the following:
- Symptoms of altered motor or sensory function not explained by a neurological, orthopedic, or other mental disorder;
- One ore more symptoms causing distress, with excessive thoughts, ruminations, feelings, or behaviors associated with they symptoms; or
- Preoccupation and obsession with having or acquiring a serious illness when you have no symptom present.
- Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas:
- Understanding, remembering, and using information;
- Interacting with other people, including coworkers, supervisors, and the general public;
- Trouble concentrating, persisting, or staying on pace, including completing tasks;
- Difficulty adapting to workplace stressors or managing one’s hygiene and personal behaviors.
Meeting a listing is tough. But you can still get approved for disability benefits even if you fail to meet a listing. This is done by showing that your RFC assessment – what you’re capable of doing on a sustained basis when all your medical conditions, including conversion disorder, and their symptoms are considered – prevents you from performing any work that may exist in the national economy in significant numbers based on your age (under 50, 50-54, 55 or older), educational level, and transferable job skills.
To obtain SSDI or SSI benefits for conversion disorder when you don’t meet the listing, you should submit evidence to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that includes:
- Treatment records from your psychologist; psychiatrist; social worker; case manager; and therapist;
- Medications that you take and any side effects, including nausea, fatigue, and drowsiness;
- Lab tests and diagnostic results that prove you do not have a neurological illness or mental health disorder causing your symptoms; and
- Records from any hospitalizations or emergency room visits related to conversion disorder.
You should also prepare for your testimony at hearing so that the administrative law judge (ALJ) understands how your life has changed since your symptoms began. Information about help needed with paying bills, performing chores, or going out in public will be helpful in preparing your case and presenting a strong narrative at hearing.
Corey Pollard is a Virginia Beach disability lawyer and Social Security disability attorney in Richmond, VA. Call, text, or email him today if you’re looking for help applying for SSD benefits in Virginia or presenting your case at a disability hearing. We represent adults and also serve as attorney for children with disabilities in Virginia.