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Sperling, M. (1973). Conversion Hysteria and Conversion Symptoms: A Revision of Classification and Concepts. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 21:745-771.

(1973). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21:745-771

Conversion Hysteria and Conversion Symptoms: A Revision of Classification and Concepts

Melitta Sperling, M.D.

ALTHOUGH CONVERSION HYSTERIA was the first neurosis to be studied psychoanalytically, much about hysteria and conversion has remained problematic. While it is true that cases of classical conversion hysteria are infrequent nowadays, especially among the more sophisticated segments of the population with which analysts usually deal, conversion hysteria and conversion symptoms are nevertheless still fairly common neurotic phenomena. In the pediatric department of a general hospital, I have seen classical cases of conversion hysteria such as paralysis of extremities, hysterical blindness, hysterical (epileptiform) convulsions. In my 30 years of analytic practice, I have treated a considerable number of patients with true conversion hysteria and a large number of patients with conversion symptoms in all age groups.

Among my patients was one whose symptomatology in many ways resembled that of Freud's Dora case. I have previously described this patient (Sperling, 1953) with specific reference to her food allergies. My focus here will be broader, for I wish to show how her early traumata influenced the shaping of her fantasy life and her choice of symptoms.

Mrs. A.


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