Center on Stress and Health

Dissociation

Wong, M., E. Looney, J. Michaels, O. Palesh and C. Koopman (2006). "A preliminary study of peritraumatic dissociation, social support, and coping in relation to posttraumatic stress symptoms for a parent's cancer." Psychooncology 15(12): 1093-8.
This study examined predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in adults who, as children, had a parent diagnosed with cancer. Possible predictors of adulthood PTSD examined were peritraumatic dissociation, satisfaction with social support, coping through denial, behavioral disengagement and self-distraction, and whether or not the parent died. Thirty research participants (20 women and 10 men, ages 18-38) were recruited who were 8-17-years old at the time of a parent's cancer diagnosis. Each participant completed measures of their current PTSD symptoms in response to their parent's cancer, peritraumatic dissociative experiences, demographic characteristics, and satisfaction with social support and use of coping strategies at the time of their parent's cancer diagnosis. Seventeen percent met screening criteria for likely PTSD. As hypothesized, PTSD symptoms were strongly and positively correlated with peritraumatic dissociation. Furthermore, PTSD symptoms were greater among females and were related to greater use of denial and behavioral disengagement and to less satisfaction with social support. These results suggest that health care providers need to recognize symptoms of peritraumatic dissociation in the children of parents who are diagnosed with cancer so that steps can be taken to minimize the children's development of PTSD that may extend into their adult lives.

Spiegel, D. (2006). "Recognizing traumatic dissociation." Am J Psychiatry 163(4): 566-8.

Ginzburg, K., C. Koopman, L. D. Butler, O. Palesh, H. C. Kraemer, C. C. Classen and D. Spiegel (2006). "Evidence for a dissociative subtype of post-traumatic stress disorder among help-seeking childhood sexual abuse survivors." J Trauma Dissociation 7(2): 7-27.
This study examined evidence for a dissociative subtype of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among women seeking psychotherapy for childhood sexual abuse (CSA). One hundred and twenty-two women seeking treatment for CSA completed a battery of questionnaires assessing PTSD, dissociative symptoms, and child maltreatment. Using signal detection analysis, we identified high and low dissociation PTSD subgroups. A constellation of three PTSD symptoms-hypervigilance, sense of foreshortened future, and sleep difficulties-discriminated between these two subgroups (OR = 8.15). Further evidence was provided by the finding of a nonlinear relationship between severity of childhood maltreatment and dissociation in the women with PTSD. These results provide support for a dissociative subtype of PTSD that may stem from more severe childhood experiences of neglect and abuse.

Spiegel, D. (2005). "Treatment of acute traumatic stress reactions." J Trauma Dissociation 6(2): 101-8.
This paper calls for a broadening of the context within which we study responses to traumatic stress, the course of recovery, components of effective interventions, and assessments of outcome. Acute stress reactions to trauma as a spectrum include anxiety, dissociative, and depressive symptoms. The course of these symptoms may vary, with fluctuations between intrusion (positive) and avoidance/numbing/dissociative (negative) symptoms that may complicate assessment, treatment-seeking, and course of recovery. Components of effective treatments including affect management, cognitive restructuring, and social integration are discussed. Finally, a broader view of outcome assessment in such research is called for, including not just reduction in psychopathological symptoms but attention to coping styles, affect management, resilience, social reorganization, and sensitivity to subsequent trauma.

Koopman, C., V. Carrion, L. D. Butler, S. Sudhakar, L. Palmer and H. Steiner (2004). "Relationships of dissociation and childhood abuse and neglect with heart rate in delinquent adolescents." J Trauma Stress 17(1): 47-54.
This study examined the relationship of dissociative symptoms, abuse and neglect, and gender to mean heart rate (HR) in two types of interviews. Participants were 25 female and 16 male delinquent adolescents. Dissociative symptoms and abuse and neglect were assessed by structured interviews. Participants were randomized to one of two conditions, to describe either their most stressful life experience or their free association thoughts. Greater dissociative symptoms were associated with lower mean HR, whereas abuse and neglect, being a girl, and participating in the free association task were associated with higher mean HR. The finding that high levels of dissociative symptoms may be related to a suppression of autonomic physiological responses to stress support Bremner's conceptualization (J. D. Bremner, 1999) that dissociative symptoms comprise one of two subtypes of the acute stress response, differing physiologically as well as subjectively from a predominantly hyperarousal or intrusive symptom response.

Kalichman, S. C., C. Gore-Felton, E. Benotsch, M. Cage and D. Rompa (2004). "Trauma symptoms, sexual behaviors, and substance abuse: correlates of childhood sexual abuse and HIV risks among men who have sex with men." J Child Sex Abus 13(1): 1-15.
Childhood sexual abuse is associated with high-risk sexual behavior in men who have sex with men. This study examined psychological and behavioral correlates of HIV risk behavior associated with childhood sexual abuse in a sample of men who have sex with men. Men attending a large gay pride event (N = 647) completed anonymous surveys that assessed demographic characteristics, childhood sexual abuse history, symptoms of dissociation and trauma-related anxiety, borderline personality characteristics, substance use, and sexual risk behavior. Results indicated that men who have a history of childhood sexual abuse were more likely to: engage in high-risk sexual behavior (i.e., unprotected receptive anal intercourse), trade sex for money or drugs, report being HIV positive, and experience non-sexual relationship violence. Results of this study extend previous research to show that men who have sex with men and who have a history of child sexual abuse are more likely to be at high risk for HIV infection.

Steiner, H., V. Carrion, B. Plattner and C. Koopman (2003). "Dissociative symptoms in posttraumatic stress disorder: diagnosis and treatment." Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 12(2): 231-49, viii.
This article explores the complex relationship between dissociation and psychiatric trauma. Dissociation is described as a defense reaction, a risk factor for the development of posttraumatic stress disorder, and as a set of syndromal disturbances. The authors discuss various models proposed for the relationship between these. They outline developmental considerations in diagnosis and treatment and end by discussing further needed research.

Cardena, E., C. Koopman, C. Classen, L. C. Waelde and D. Spiegel (2000). "Psychometric properties of the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire (SASRQ): a valid and reliable measure of acute stress." J Trauma Stress 13(4): 719-34.
A reliable and valid measure is needed for assessing the psychological symptoms experienced in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Previous research suggests that trauma victims typically experience dissociative, anxiety and other symptoms, during or shortly after a traumatic event. Although some of these symptoms may protect the trauma victim from pain, they may also lead to acute stress, posttraumatic stress, or other disorders. The Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire (SASRQ) was developed to evaluate anxiety and dissociation symptoms in the aftermath of traumatic events, following DSM-IV criteria for acute stress disorder. We present data from multiple datasets and analyses supporting the reliability and construct, convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity of the SASRQ.

Spiegel, D. (1997). "Trauma, dissociation, and memory." Ann N Y Acad Sci 821: 225-37.

Butler, L. D., R. E. Duran, P. Jasiukaitis, C. Koopman and D. Spiegel (1996). "Hypnotizability and traumatic experience: a diathesis-stress model of dissociative symptomatology." Am J Psychiatry 153(7 Suppl): 42-63.
OBJECTIVE: The authors propose a diathesis-stress model to describe how pathological dissociation may arise from an interaction between innate hypnotizability and traumatic experience. METHOD: To support the proposition that pathological dissociation may reflect autohypnotic process, the authors highlight clinical and research data indicating parallels between controlled hypnotic dissociative states and uncontrolled pathological dissociative symptoms and summarize evidence of hypnotizability in persons with psychiatric disorders that manifest these symptoms. The authors present this evidence by examining dissociative symptomatology in four psychological domains: perception, behavior and will, affect, and memory and identity. In addition, modern cognitive and neuropsychological models of dissociation are briefly reviewed. RESULTS: Several lines of evidence converge in support of the role of autohypnosis in pathological dissociation. There is considerable evidence that controlled formal hypnosis can produce a variety of dissociations of awareness and control that resemble many of the symptoms in uncontrolled pathological dissociative conditions; and it is possible to discern in dissociative pathology the features of absorption, dissociation, and suggestibility/automaticity that characterize formal hypnotic states. There is also accumulating evidence of high levels of hypnotic capacity in all groups with dissociative symptomatology that have been systematically assessed. In addition, the widespread and successful therapeutic use of hypnosis in the treatment of many dissociative symptoms and conditions (and the potential for hypnosis to induce dissociative symptomatology) also supports the assumption that hypnosis and pathological dissociation share an underlying process. CONCLUSIONS: High hypnotizability may be a diathesis for pathological dissociative states, particularly under conditions of acute traumatic stress.

Spiegel, D. and A. W. Scheflin (1994). "Dissociated or fabricated? Psychiatric aspects of repressed memory in criminal and civil cases." Int J Clin Exp Hypn 42(4): 411-32.
During the last decade, clinicians, courts, and researchers have been faced with exceedingly difficult questions involving the crossroads where memory, traumatic memory, dissociation, repression, childhood sexual abuse, and suggestion all meet. In one criminal case, repressed memories served as the basis for a conviction of murder. In approximately 50 civil cases, courts have ruled on the issue of whether repressed memory for childhood sexual abuse may form the basis of a suit against the alleged perpetrators. Rulings that have upheld such use underscore the importance of the reliability of memory retrieval techniques. Hypnosis and other methodologies employed in psychotherapy may be beneficial in working through memories of trauma, but they may also distort memories or alter a subject's evaluation of their veracity. Because of the reconstructive nature of memory, caution must be taken to treat each case on its own merits and avoid global statements essentially proclaiming either that repressed memory is always right or that it is always wrong.

Classen, C., C. Koopman and D. Spiegel (1993). "Trauma and dissociation." Bull Menninger Clin 57(2): 178-94.
The stress associated with experiencing or witnessing physical trauma can cause abrupt and marked alterations in mental state, including anxiety and transient dissociative symptoms. Intense manifestations of this pattern of response to trauma are described in a new diagnostic category proposed for DSM-IV: acute stress disorder. Severe dissociative symptoms may predict subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder. Persons who experience a series of traumatic events may be especially vulnerable to a variety of dissociative states, including amnesia, fugue, depersonalization, and multiple personality disorder. Treatment for these symptoms emphasizes strengthening supportive interpersonal relationships and developing insight that reduces psychological pain by integrating the trauma into a meaningful, less self-blaming perspective.

Cardena, E. and D. Spiegel (1993). "Dissociative reactions to the San Francisco Bay Area earthquake of 1989." Am J Psychiatry 150(3): 474-8.
OBJECTIVE: This study systematically evaluated the psychological reactions of a nonclinical population to the October 1989 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. METHOD: A representative group of about 100 graduate students from two different institutions in the Bay Area volunteered to participate in the study. Within 1 week of the earthquake, the authors administered a checklist of anxiety and dissociative symptoms to the subjects, and 4 months later they conducted a follow-up study with the same checklist. RESULTS: The participants reported significantly greater numbers and frequency of dissociative symptoms, including derealization and depersonalization, distortions of time, and alterations in cognition, memory and somatic sensations, during or shortly after the earthquake than after 4 months. To a lesser degree they also reported significantly more nonsomatic anxiety symptoms and Schneider's first-rank symptoms at the earlier testing time. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that among nonclinical populations, extreme distress may significantly increase the prevalence and severity of transient dissociative phenomena and anxiety. They provide further evidence of the role that dissociation plays in the response to trauma and are of considerable clinical and theoretical importance in view of the lifetime prevalence of traumatic experiences in the general population.

Spiegel, D. and F. Cardena (1991). "Comments on hypnotizability and dissociation." Am J Psychiatry 148(6): 813-5.

Spiegel, D. and E. Cardena (1991). "Disintegrated experience: the dissociative disorders revisited." J Abnorm Psychol 100(3): 366-78.
We present proposed changes to the dissociative disorders section of the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and review the concept of pathological and nonpathological dissociation, including empirical findings on the relations between trauma and dissociative phenomenology and between dissociation and hypnosis. The most important proposals include the creation of two new diagnostic entities, brief reactive dissociative disorder and transient dissociative disturbance, and the readoption of the criterion of amnesia for a multiple personality disorder diagnosis. We conclude that further work on dissociative processes will provide an important link between clinical and experimental approaches to human cognition, emotion, and personality.

Spiegel, D. (1991). "Neurophysiological correlates of hypnosis and dissociation." J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 3(4): 440-5.

Spiegel, D. (1989). "Hypnosis in the treatment of victims of sexual abuse." Psychiatr Clin North Am 12(2): 295-305.
The relevance of hypnosis to the treatment of sexual assault derives from two sources: the fact that hypnotic phenomena are mobilized spontaneously as defenses during assault, becoming part of the syndrome of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the usefulness of formal hypnosis in treating PTSD. The role of dissociative defenses during and after traumatic experiences is reviewed; an analogy between the major elements of formally-induced hypnosis--absorption, dissociation, and suggestibility, and the major elements of PTSD--is drawn. Special problems relevant to sexual assault in childhood are discussed, including extreme self-blame and a profound sense of personality fragmentation. Uses of hypnosis in the treatment of sexual assault victims are reviewed, with an emphasis on helping such patients restructure their memories of the experience, both by reviewing them with greater control over their physical sense of comfort and safety and by balancing painful memories with recognition of their efforts to protect themselves or someone else who was endangered. The use of a split-screen technique in hypnosis is described with a clinical example. Special considerations in such treatment, including the traumatic transference and forensic complications of such psychotherapeutic work, are enumerated.

Spiegel, D., T. Hunt and H. E. Dondershine (1988). "Dissociation and hypnotizability in posttraumatic stress disorder." Am J Psychiatry 145(3): 301-5.
The authors compared the hypnotizability of 65 Vietnam veteran patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to that of a normal control group and four patient samples using the Hypnotic Induction Profile. The patients with PTSD had significantly higher hypnotizability scores than patients with diagnoses of schizophrenia (N = 23); major depression, bipolar disorder--depressed, and dysthymic disorder (N = 56); and generalized anxiety disorder (N = 18) and the control sample (N = 83). This finding supports the hypothesis that dissociative phenomena are mobilized as defenses both during and after traumatic experiences. The literature suggests that spontaneous dissociation, imagery, and hypnotizability are important components of PTSD symptoms.

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