Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci.  2014 Dec;12(3):171-179. 10.9758/cpn.2014.12.3.171.

The Many Faces of Dissociation: Opportunities for Innovative Research in Psychiatry

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, V.K.V. American Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey. vsar@istanbul.edu.tr

Abstract

It has been claimed that the progress of psychiatry has lagged behind that of other medical disciplines over the last few decades. This may suggest the need for innovative thinking and research in psychiatry, which should consider neglected areas as topics of interest in light of the potential progress which might be made in this regard. This review is concerned with one such field of psychiatry: dissociation and dissociative disorders. Dissociation is the ultimate form of human response to chronic developmental stress, because patients with dissociative disorders report the highest frequency of childhood abuse and/or neglect among all psychiatric disorders. The cardinal feature of dissociation is a disruption in one or more mental functions. Dissociative amnesia, depersonalization, derealization, identity confusion, and identity alterations are core phenomena of dissociative psychopathology which constitute a single dimension characterized by a spectrum of severity. While dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the most pervasive condition of all dissociative disorders, partial representations of this spectrum may be diagnosed as dissociative amnesia (with or without fugue), depersonalization disorder, and other specified dissociative disorders such as subthreshold DID, dissociative trance disorder, acute dissociative disorders, and identity disturbances due to exposure to oppression. In addition to constituting disorders in their own right, dissociation may accompany almost every psychiatric disorder and operate as a confounding factor in general psychiatry, including neurobiological and psycho-pharmacological research. While an anti- dissociative drug does not yet exist, appropriate psychotherapy leads to considerable improvement for many patients with dissociative disorders.

Keyword

Dissociation; Diagnosis; Childhood trauma; Neurobiology
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