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Psychogenic voice disorders and traumatic stress experience: a discussion paper with two case reports

Journal of Voice
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1067/s0892-1997(03)00015-8
  • Original Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


Abstract Summary: Psychogenic dysphonia refers to loss of voice where there is insufficient structural or neurological pathology to account for the nature and severity of the dysphonia, and where loss of volitional control over phonation seems to be related to psychological processes such as anxiety, depression, conversion reaction, or personality disorder. Such dysphonias may often develop post-viral infection with laryngitis, and generally in close proximity to emotionally or psychologically taxing experiences, where “conflict over speaking out” is an issue. In more rare instances, severe and persistent psychogenic dysphonia may develop under innocuous or unrelated circumstances, but over time, it may be traced back to traumatic stress experiences that occurred many months or years prior to the onset of the voice disorder. In such cases, the qualitative nature of the traumatic experience may be reflected in the way the psychogenic voice disorder presents. The possible relationship between psychogenic dysphonia and earlier traumatic stress experience is discussed, and the reportedly low prevalence of conversion reaction (4% to 5%) as the basis for psychogenic dysphonia is challenged. Two cases are presented to illustrate the issues raised: the first, a young woman who was sexually assaulted and chose to “keep her secret,” and the second, a 52-year-old woman who developed a psychogenic dysphonia following a second, modified thyroplasty for a unilateral vocal fold paresis.

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