Dissociative Disorders Annotated Bibliography

The following selections were drawn from the collection of the National Library of Medicine Online service, PubMed. These references and abstracts are available to the public at PubMed Search Engine of the National Library of Medicine. These selections represent a variety of studies about dissociative disorders from around the world.

Clicking on an article citation will take you to the publisher’s page for the article–or the article itself, if it is open access–in a separate browser window.

Axis I Dissociative Disorder Comorbidity in Borderline Personality Disorder and Reports of Childhood Trauma

Sar, V., Akyuz, G., Kugu, N., Ozturk, E., & Ertem-Vehid, H. (2006). Axis I dissociative disorder comorbidity in borderline personality disorder and reports of childhood trauma. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67(10): 1583-90. [OPEN ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to examine the dissociative disorder comorbidity of borderline personality disorder and its relation to childhood trauma reports in a nonclinical population. METHOD: In April 2003, 1301 college students were screened for borderline personality disorder using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Personality Disorders. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and Steinbergs dissociation questionnaires were also administered. During May and June 2003, 80 students with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and 111 nonborderline students were evaluated using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders by an interviewer blind to the diagnosis and scores obtained during the first phase. RESULTS: The prevalence of borderline personality disorder was 8.5%. A significant majority (72.5%; 58/80) of the borderline personality disorder group had a dissociative disorder, whereas this rate was only 18.0% (20/111) for the comparison group (p < .001). Childhood emotional and sexual abuse, physical neglect, and total childhood trauma scores had significant effect for borderline personality disorder (p < .001, p = .038, p = .044, and p = .003, respectively), whereas emotional neglect and diminished minimization of childhood trauma had significant effect for dissociative disorder (p = .020 and p = .007, respectively). CONCLUSION: A significant proportion of subjects with borderline personality disorder have a comorbid dissociative disorder. Lack of interaction between dissociative disorder and borderline personality disorder diagnoses for any type of childhood trauma contradicts the opinion that both disorders together might be a single disorder. Recognizing highly prevalent but usually neglected Axis I dissociative disorder comorbidity in patients with borderline personality disorder may contribute to conceptual clarification of this spectrum of psychopathology. PMID: 17107251

Childhood Trauma and Perceived Parental Dysfunction in the Etiology of Dissociative Symptoms in Psychiatric Inpatients

Draijer, N., & Langeland, W. (1999). Childhood trauma and perceived parental dysfunction in the etiology of dissociative symptoms in psychiatric inpatients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(3): 379-85. [OPEN ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: Research on the etiology of dissociation in adults has focused primarily on childhood sexual abuse. The role of co-occurring childhood stressors and of more chronic adverse conditions such as neglect is less clear. This study examined the level of dissociation in relation to childhood trauma (sexual/physical abuse, witnessing interparental violence), early separation from a parent, and perceived parental dysfunction. METHOD: One hundred sixty inpatients consecutively admitted to a general psychiatric hospital were administered the Dissociative Experiences Scale and the Structured Trauma Interview. RESULTS: The mean Dissociative Experiences Scale score was 17.4; 18.0% of the patients scored beyond 30. Early separation was reported by 26.4% of the patients; 30.1% had witnessed interparental violence; 23.6% reported physical abuse; 34.6% reported sexual abuse; 11.7% reported rape before age 16; and 42.1% reported sexual and/or physical abuse. The level of dissociation was primarily related to reported overwhelming childhood experiences (sexual and physical abuse). When sexual abuse was severe (involving penetration, several perpetrators, lasting more than 1 year), dissociative symptoms were even more prominent. Highest dissociation levels were found in patients reporting cumulative sexual trauma (intrafamilial and extrafamilial) or both sexual and physical abuse. In particular, maternal dysfunction was related to the level of dissociation. With control for gender and age, stepwise multiple regression analysis indicated that the severity of dissociative symptoms was best predicted by reported sexual abuse, physical abuse, and maternal dysfunction. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that dissociation, although trauma-related, is neglect-related as well. This implies the importance of object relations and attachment in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with dissociative disorders.PMID: 10080552

Childhood Trauma, Dissociation, and Psychiatric Comorbidity in Patients with Conversion Disorder

Sar, V., Akyuz, G., Kundakci, T., Kiziltan, E., & Dogan, O. (2004). Childhood trauma, dissociation, and psychiatric comorbidity in patients with conversion disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(12): 2271-76. [OPEN ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate dissociative disorder and overall psychiatric comorbidity in patients with conversion disorder. METHOD: Thirty-eight consecutive patients previously diagnosed with conversion disorder were evaluated in two follow-up interviews. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R, the Dissociation Questionnaire, the Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire, and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were administered during the first follow-up interview. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders was conducted in a separate evaluation. RESULTS: At least one psychiatric diagnosis was found in 89.5% of the patients during the follow-up evaluation. Undifferentiated somatoform disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, dysthymic disorder, simple phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depression, and dissociative disorder not otherwise specified were the most prevalent psychiatric disorders. A dissociative disorder was seen in 47.4% of the patients. These patients had dysthymic disorder, major depression, somatization disorder, and borderline personality disorder more frequently than the remaining subjects. They also reported childhood emotional and sexual abuse, physical neglect, self-mutilative behavior, and suicide attempts more frequently. CONCLUSIONS: Comorbid dissociative disorder should alert clinicians for a more chronic and severe psychopathology among patients with conversion disorder. PMID: 15569899

Dissociative Experiences in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Trichotillomania: Clinical and Genetic Findings

Lochner, C., Seedat, S., Hemmings, S.M., Kinnear, C.J., Corfield, V.A., Niehaus, D.J., Moolman-Smook, J.C., & Stein, D.J. (2004). Dissociative experiences in obsessive-compulsive disorder and trichotillomania: clinical and genetic findings. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 45(5): 384-91. [PAID ACCESS]

A link between dissociation proneness in adulthood and self-reports of childhood traumatic events (including familial loss in childhood, sexual/physical abuse and neglect) has been documented. Several studies have also provided evidence for an association between dissociative experiences and trauma in patients with various psychiatric disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality, dissociative identity and eating disorders. Based on the relative paucity of data on dissociation and trauma in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and trichotillomania (TTM), the primary objective of this study was to examine the relationship between trauma and dissociative experiences (DE) in these two diagnostic groups. Furthermore, the availability of clinical and genetic data on this sample allowed us to explore clinical and genetic factors relevant to this association. A total of 110 OCD and 32 TTM patients were compared with respect to the degree of dissociation (using the Dissociative Experiences Scale [DES]) and childhood trauma (using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire [CTQ]). Patients were classified on the DES as either “high” (mean DES score >/= 30) or “low” (mean DES score < 30) dissociators. Additional clinical and genetic factors were also explored with chi-square and t tests as appropriate. A total of 15.8% of OCD patients and 18.8% of TTM patients were high dissociators. OCD and TTM groups were comparable on DES and CTQ total scores, and in both OCD and TTM groups, significant positive correlations were found between mean DES scores and mean CTQ subscores of emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and physical neglect. In the OCD group, high dissociators were significantly younger than low dissociators, and significantly more high dissociators than low dissociators reported a lifetime (current and past) history of tics (P <.001), Tourettes syndrome (P =.019), bulimia nervosa (P =.003), and borderline personality disorder (P =.027). In the TTM group, significantly more high dissociators than low dissociators reported (lifetime) kleptomania (P =.005) and depersonalisation disorder (P =.005). In the Caucasian OCD patients (n = 114), investigation of genetic polymorphisms involved in monoamine function revealed no significant differences between high and low dissociator groups. This study demonstrates a link between childhood trauma and DE in patients with OCD and TTM. High dissociative symptomatology may be present in a substantial proportion of patients diagnosed with these disorders. High dissociators may also be differentiated from low dissociators on some demographic features (e.g., lower age) and comorbidity profile (e.g., increased incidence of impulse dyscontrol disorders). Additional work is necessary before conclusions about the role of monoaminergic systems in mediating such dissociation can be drawn. PMID: 15332202

Dissociation, Childhood Interpersonal Trauma, and Family Functioning in Patients with Somatization Disorder

Brown, R.J., Schrag, A., & Trimble, M.R. (2005). Dissociation, childhood interpersonal trauma, and family functioning in patients with somatization disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(5): 899-905. [PAID ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: The goals of this study were to determine 1) the occurrence of various dissociative phenomena in patients with somatization disorder, 2) the occurrence of six different types of childhood interpersonal trauma in these patients, and 3) the nature of these patients early family environment. METHOD: Twenty-two patients with somatization disorder and 19 medical comparison subjects completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders, the Childhood Trauma Interview, and the Family Functioning Scale. RESULTS: The somatization disorder patients reported significantly higher level of dissociative amnesia than the comparison subjects. The two groups reported similar levels of depersonalization, derealization, identity confusion, and identity alteration. Somatization disorder patients reported significantly greater childhood emotional abuse and more severe forms of physical abuse, relative to the comparison subjects, with chronic emotional abuse being the best predictor of unexplained symptoms. Childhood sexual abuse, separation/loss, and witnessing violence were equally common in the two groups. The somatization disorder group reported significantly more family conflict and less family cohesion. CONCLUSIONS: Only some types of dissociation are more severe in patients with somatization disorder, relative to medical comparison subjects. Many patients with somatization disorder are raised in an emotionally cold, distant, and unsupportive family environment characterized by chronic emotional and physical abuse. Sexual abuse is not a necessary prerequisite for the disorder. PMID: 15863791

Prevalence of Dissociative Disorders Among Psychiatric Inpatients in a German University Clinic

Gast, U., Rodewald, F., Nickel, V., & Emrich, H.M. (2001). Prevalence of dissociative disorders among psychiatric inpatients in a German university clinic. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 189(4): 249-57. [PAID ACCESS]

The aim of the study was to determine the frequency of dissociative disorders among psychiatric inpatients in Germany and to investigate the relationship between childhood trauma and dissociation. The German version of the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), the Fragebogen fur Dissoziative Symptome (FDS), was used to screen 115 consecutive inpatients admitted to the psychiatric clinic of a university hospital. Patients with FDS scores higher than 20 were interviewed by a trained clinician, using the German translation of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders (SCID-D-R). The German version of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) was administered to investigate prevalence of childhood trauma and relations between childhood trauma and dissociation in adult life. Twenty-five of the 115 patients (21.7%) had a score higher than 20 on the FDS. Of these, 15 patients were interviewed with the SCID-D-R. One patient was diagnosed with a dissociative identity disorder, three with dissociative disorders not otherwise specified, and one patient with depersonalization disorder. All diagnoses were confirmed clinically. A significant positive relationship was found between the severity of childhood trauma and dissociation. Dissociative disorders are common among German psychiatric inpatients. Clinicians who work in psychiatric inpatient units should be mindful of these disorders. PMID: 11339321

Prevalence of Dissociative Disorders in Psychiatric Outpatients

Foote, B., Smolin, Y., Kaplan, M., Legatt, M.E., & Lipschitz, D. (2006). Prevalence of dissociative disorders in psychiatric outpatients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(4): 566-8. [PAID ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the study was to assess the prevalence of DSM-IV dissociative disorders in an inner-city outpatient psychiatric population. METHOD: Subjects were 231 consecutive admissions (84 men and 147 women, mean age=37 years) to an inner-city, hospital-based outpatient psychiatric clinic. The subjects completed self-report measures of dissociation (Dissociative Experiences Scale) and trauma history (Traumatic Experiences Questionnaire). Eighty-two patients (35%) completed a structured interview for dissociative disorders (Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule). RESULTS: The 82 patients who were interviewed did not differ significantly on any demographic measure or on the self-report measures of trauma and dissociation from the 149 patients who were not interviewed. Twenty-four (29%) of the 82 interviewed patients received a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder. Dissociative identity disorder was diagnosed in five (6%) patients. Compared to the patients without a dissociative disorder diagnosis, patients with a dissociative disorder were significantly more likely to report childhood physical abuse (71% versus 27%) and childhood sexual abuse (74% versus 29%), but the two groups did not differ significantly on any demographic measure, including gender. Chart review revealed that only four (5%) patients in whom a dissociative disorder was identified during the study had previously received a dissociative disorder diagnosis. CONCLUSIONS: Dissociative disorders were highly prevalent in this clinical population and typically had not been previously diagnosed clinically. The high prevalence of dissociative disorders found in this study may be related to methodological factors (all patients were offered an interview rather than only those who had scored high on a screening self-report measure) and epidemiological factors (extremely high prevalence rates for childhood physical and sexual abuse were present in the overall study population). PMID: 16585436

Psychodynamics and Psychiatric Diagnoses of Pseudoseizure Subjects

Bowman, E.S., & Markand, O.N. (1996). Psychodynamics and psychiatric diagnoses of pseudoseizure subjects. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153(1): 57-63. [PAID ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to determine current and lifetime rates of DSM-III-R disorders in patients with pseudoseizures and to ascertain whether trauma is associated with the occurrence of pseudoseizures. METHODS: Adult pseudoseizure patients (N = 45) were interviewed regarding seizure course and life events, and they were given the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R–Patient Version, the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R Dissociative Disorders, the Dissociative Experiences Scale, and the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire–Revised. The pseudoseizures were diagnosed in a tertiary-care video-EEG facility. Most of the subjects (78%) were female, and the mean age of the overall patient group was 37.5 years (SD = 9.7). RESULTS: The mean duration of the subjects seizure history was 8.3 years (SD = 8.0). Common current psychiatric diagnoses included somatoform disorders (89%), dissociative disorders (91%), affective disorders (64%), personality disorders (62%), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (49%), and other anxiety disorders (47%). The lifetime occurrence of nonseizure conversion disorders was 82%. The mean Dissociative Experiences Scale score was 20.2 (SD = 18.2). Trauma was reported by 84% of the subjects: sexual abuse by 67%, physical abuse by 67%, and other traumas by 73%. CONCLUSIONS: Pseudoseizure subjects have high rates of the psychiatric disorders found in traumatized groups; they closely resemble patients with dissociative disorders. Reclassification of conversion seizures with the dissociative disorders should be considered. Pseudoseizures often appear to express distress related to abuse reports. Clinicians should screen pseudoseizure patients for adult and childhood trauma, dissociative disorders, depression, and PTSD.PMID: 8540592

Relationship of Dissociation to Self-Mutilation and Childhood Abuse in Borderline Personality Disorder

Brodsky, B.S., Cloitre, M., & Dulit, R.A. (1995). Relationship of dissociation to self-mutilation and childhood abuse in borderline personality disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 152(12): 1788-92. [OPEN ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: This study sought to document the prevalence of dissociative experiences in adult female inpatients with borderline personality disorder and to explore the relationship between dissociation, self-mutilation, and childhood abuse history. METHOD: A treatment history interview, the Dissociative Experiences Scale, the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire, and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale were administered to 60 consecutively admitted female inpatients with borderline personality disorder as diagnosed by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R Personality Disorders. RESULTS: Fifty percent of the subjects had a score of 15 or more on the Dissociative Experiences Scale, indicating pathological levels of dissociation. Fifty-two percent reported a history of self-mutilation, and 60% reported a history of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse. The subjects who dissociated were more likely than those who did not to self-mutilate and to report childhood abuse. They also had higher levels of current depressive symptoms and psychiatric treatment. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated that each of these variables predicted dissociation when each of the others was controlled for, and that self-mutilation was the most powerful predictor of dissociation. CONCLUSIONS: Female inpatients with borderline personality disorder who dissociate may represent a sizable subgroup of patients with the disorder who are at especially high risk for self-mutilation, childhood abuse, depression, and utilization of psychiatric treatment. The strong correlation between dissociation and self-mutilation independent of childhood abuse history should alert clinicians to address these symptoms first while exercising caution in attributing them to a history of abuse. PMID: 8526247

The Role of Childhood Interpersonal Trauma in Depersonalization Disorder

Simeon, D., Guralnik,. O., Schmeidler, J., Sirof, B., & Knutelska, M. (2001). The role of childhood interpersonal trauma in depersonalization disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(7): 1027-33. [PAID ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: In contrast to traumas relationship with the other dissociative disorders, the relationship of trauma to depersonalization disorder is unknown. The purpose of this study was to systematically investigate the role of childhood interpersonal trauma in depersonalization disorder. METHOD: Forty-nine subjects with DSM-IV depersonalization disorder and 26 healthy comparison subjects who were free of lifetime axis I and II disorders and of comparable age and gender were administered the Dissociative Experiences Scale and the Childhood Trauma Interview, which measures separation or loss, physical neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, witnessing of violence, and sexual abuse. RESULTS: Childhood interpersonal trauma as a whole was highly predictive of both a diagnosis of depersonalization disorder and of scores denoting dissociation, pathological dissociation, and depersonalization. Emotional abuse, both in total score and in maximum severity, emerged as the most significant predictor both of a diagnosis of depersonalization disorder and of scores denoting depersonalization but not of general dissociation scores, which were better predicted by combined emotional and sexual abuse. The majority of the perpetrators of emotional abuse were either or both parents. Although different types of trauma were modestly correlated, only a few of these relationships were statistically significant, underscoring the importance of comprehensively considering different types of trauma in research studies. CONCLUSIONS: Childhood interpersonal trauma and, in particular, emotional abuse may play a role in the pathogenesis of depersonalization disorder. Compared to other types of childhood trauma, emotional maltreatment is a relatively neglected entity in psychiatric research and merits more attention. PMID: 11431223

Trauma and Dissociation in China

Xiao, Z., Yan, H., Wang, Z., Zou, Z., Xu, Y., Chen, J., Zhang, H., Ross, CA., Keyes, B.B. (2006). Trauma and dissociation in China. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(8): 1388-91. [PAID ACCESS]

OBJECTIVE: In order to determine whether pathological dissociation occurs in China, the authors conducted a survey among psychiatric inpatients, outpatients, and the general population in Shanghai, China. There is virtually no popular or professional knowledge of dissociative identity disorder in China, and therefore professional and popular contamination cannot exist. METHOD: Chinese versions of the Dissociative Experiences Scale and the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule were administered to 423 inpatients, 304 outpatients, and 618 factory workers in Shanghai by Chinese psychiatrists working at the Shanghai Mental Health Center. RESULTS: Dissociative disorders were diagnosed in 24 respondents by structured interview, and 15 respondents fell into the dissociative taxon on the Dissociative Experiences Scale. The outpatients reported the highest rates of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse and of pathological dissociation. CONCLUSIONS: Pathological dissociation can be detected readily among psychiatric outpatients in China but is much less common in the general population. Pathological dissociation is more frequent in more traumatized subsamples of the Chinese population. The findings are not consistent with the sociocognitive, contamination, or iatrogenic models of dissociative identity disorder. PMID: 16877651