Heightened anxiety impacts a person’s world, including his or her senses. Historically referred to as a conversion disorder, symptoms such as paralysis, numbness, or blindness which are not connected to a medical cause, and are often traced to a psychological trigger, are often termed functional neurological symptom disorder. In times of significant transition, a person’s identity may be impacted, even if the change is positive. Retirement, an empty nest, divorce, and going into college are examples.
As a therapist, I was blown away the first time I encountered a client impacted by hysterical blindness. Russ, a successful 66-year-old man, described visiting the local zoo with his wife and grandchildren when anxiety washed over him. His vision narrowed.