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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 50 (2008) 2, 83 - 88

New research

Dissociative phenomena: relationship to present and past stress

D. De Wachter, A. Neven, S. Vandewalle, J. Vanderlinden, A. Lange

background Up till now research into dissociation has paid little attention to the relationship between current stress and family variables on the one hand and dissociative phenomena on the other hand. By contrast, however, many studies have investigated the link between traumatic experiences in the past and dissociative phenomena.
aim To investigate, in a clinical population, whether dissociation is linked to current stress (within and outside the family) and to traumatic experiences in the past.
method Dissociation was predicted on the basis of current stress (within and outside the family) and trauma by means of a multiple regression conducted on a population of patients with an eating disorder.
results Results indicated a clear link between current stress and dissociation. Patients with particularly high dissociation scores reported significantly more stress both on the measures of current stress and on the list of trauma.
conclusion Dissociation is associated with stressful experiences, but not only with sexual trauma. Dissociation is also linked to stress experienced in current living conditions. Therefore the simple model that links dissociative experiences directly with trauma needs to be revised. This finding demonstrates that more attention should be given to stress factors in the treatment of dissociative phenomena.

keywords stress, dissociation, context