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The Treatment of Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder: A Systematic Review

ABSTRACT Depersonalization-derealization disorder (DPD) is characterized by persistent or recurrent experiences of detachment from oneself and surroundings, as well as a sense of unreality. Considering the inadequacy of current research on treatment, we performed a systematic review of the available pharmacotherapies, neuromodulations, and psychotherapies for DPD. The systematic review protocol was based on PRISMA 2020 guidelines and pre-registered. The PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, Embase, the Cochrane Library, Scopus, and ScienceDirect databases were searched from inception to June 2021. All treatments for DPD and all study types, including controlled and observational studies as well as case reports, were assessed. Of the identified 17,540 studies, 41 studies (four randomized controlled trials, one non-randomized controlled trial, 10 case series, and 26 case reports) involving 300 participants met the eligibility criteria. We identified 30 methods that have been applied independently or in combination to treat DPD since 1955. The quality of these studies was considered. The relationship between individual differences, such as symptoms, comorbidities, history, and duration since onset, and treatment effects was explored. The results suggest that a series of treatments, such as pharmacotherapies, neuromodulation, and psychotherapies, could be considered in combination. However, the quality and quantity of studies were generally low considering the high prevalence of DPD. The review concludes with suggestions for future research and an urgent call for more high-quality research.


ABSTRACT People with dissociative symptoms are generally poly-symptomatic and require high levels of healthcare resources. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms are two major disabling comorbid symptoms in people with dissociative symptoms. While the sense of control over symptoms may be associated with PTSD and dissociative symptoms, the interplay among these factors over time remains unexplored. This study examined the predictors of PTSD and depressive symptoms in people with dissociative symptoms. Longitudinal data from 61 participants with dissociative symptoms were analyzed. Participants completed self-report measures of dissociative, depressive, and PTSD symptoms and the sense of control over symptoms two times (T1 & T2) with an interval of over one month. PTSD and depressive symptoms were not transient or time-specific, but they persisted over time in our sample. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that, after controlling for age, treatment usage and baseline symptom severity, T1 symptom management scores (β = −.264, p = .006) negatively predicted T2 PTSD symptoms, while T1 PTSD symptoms (β = .268, p = .017) positively predicted T2 depressive symptoms. T1 depressive symptoms (β = −.087, p = .339) did not predict T2 PTSD symptoms. The findings highlight the importance of improving symptom management skills and treating comorbid PTSD symptoms when working with people with dissociative symptoms.

The association between childhood maltreatment and body (dis)satisfaction in adolescents and young adults from the general population

ABSTRACT Adolescents with a history of childhood maltreatment are vulnerable to body dissatisfaction and associated psychopathology such as eating disorders. The aim of this study was to expand the understanding of the association between childhood maltreatment and body dissatisfaction in adolescents and young adults. In an epidemiological cohort study, N = 1,001 participants aged 14–21 years from Dresden, Germany, completed self-report measures on childhood maltreatment, body image, and self-esteem. Lifetime mental disorders were assessed in standardized clinical interviews. Data analyses included multiple regression and mediation analyses. More than one-third of the participants reported experiences of childhood maltreatment (37.4%), in which emotional neglect and abuse were the most frequent subtypes. Individuals with a history of childhood maltreatment showed significantly less satisfaction with their physical appearance than participants without such adverse experiences. In a single mediator model, self-esteem emerged as potential mediator in the association between child maltreatment and body (dis)satisfaction. Experiences of childhood maltreatment may be considered as risk factor for the development of body dissatisfaction in adolescents, and the role of potential mediator variables such as self-esteem warrants further prospective research.

A Network Comparison of Sexual Dysfunction, Psychological Factors, and Body Dissociation between Individuals with and without Sexual Trauma Histories

ABSTRACT Sexual dysfunction is associated with psychological symptoms, including depression and anxiety. Sexual dysfunctions are often attributed to dissociation symptoms in individuals who reported sexual trauma histories. This study utilized a network approach to analyze relationships between sexual and psychological symptoms and examine whether the identified network structures differed between individuals who reported a history of sexual trauma and those who did not. Sexual dysfunction, history of sexual trauma, internalizing symptoms, dissociation symptoms, sex-related shame, and negative body image were assessed in 1,937 United States college students (women = 69.5%). Nearly half (46.8%) of the participants reported a sexual trauma history in their lifetime. Using regularized partial correlation networks, the relationships between sexual and psychological symptoms were analyzed and compared between groups with and without trauma histories. Internalizing symptoms were positively correlated with sexual dysfunction regardless of the presence of sexual trauma history. Anxiety had a stronger influence in the trauma network than in the no-trauma network. Feeling separated from the body during sexual activity was a central symptom and was related to difficulties relaxing and enjoying sex only in the trauma network. Sex-related shame appeared to play a more important role in men compared to women. To improve clinical practice of assessing and treating sexual dysfunction, researchers and clinicians should consider core symptoms that connect different aspects of sexual and psychological functioning while being aware of the unique role of dissociation in the context of traumatic stress.

Attachment Anxiety and Dissociation Mediate Associations Between Polytrauma and Somatization in Kenyan Adolescents

ABSTRACT The experience of several potentially traumatic events (PTE) is a risk factor for higher somatization symptoms severity among adolescents. Attachment orientations and dissociation may influence the link between exposure to PTE and somatization symptoms severity. We analyzed the associations between direct exposure to PTE and somatization symptoms in Kenyan adolescents and explored the mediating role of attachment orientations and dissociation symptoms in the associations between direct exposure to PTE with somatization symptoms severity. A sample of 475 Kenyan adolescents completed validated self-report questionnaires. Serial multiple mediation models were tested by conducting a structural equation modeling employing Preacher and Hayes’ procedures (2008). Attachment anxiety and dissociation symptoms mediate the association between direct exposure to traumatic events and somatization symptoms. Higher exposure to traumatic events was significantly associated with higher attachment anxiety levels, which was associated with higher levels of dissociation symptoms, which was then associated with higher somatization symptoms severity. High levels of attachment anxiety and dissociation might aggravate somatization symptoms differently according to sex, which might be seen as a psychological distress mechanism subsequent to exposure to multiple PTE in African adolescents.


ABSTRACT Introduction A number of studies have investigated the relationship between mindfulness and dissociation and suggested that mindfulness-based interventions could be effective in the treatment of dissociative symptoms. A recent study in healthy volunteers found that attention and emotional acceptance mediates this relationship. However, no study has yet been performed among a clinical sample to assess this association. Method We recruited 90 patients (76 women) suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They completed self-report questionnaires to measure PTSD, dissociation, emotion regulation difficulties, childhood trauma, mindfulness abilities and cognitive abilities. Results We found that mindfulness abilities, emotional difficulties, dissociation and attention-concentration were all related to each other. Using a step-by-step approach and bootstrapping techniques, we found a significant indirect effect of mindfulness abilities on dissociation through non-acceptance (confidence interval 95%=-.14 to −.01) and attentional difficulties (confidence interval 95%=-.23 to −.05). Conclusion Patients with higher levels of dissociative symptoms have less capacity for mindfulness. Our results support Bishop et al.’s model proposing that attention and emotional acceptance are the two active components of mindfulness. To extend our findings, clinical trials are required to evaluate a causal relationship and the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for patients suffering from dissociation.


ABSTRACT In the United States, sexual assault survivors are advised to have a medical forensic exam and the collection of a sexual assault kit (SAK) to preserve biological evidence (e.g. semen, blood, saliva, hair) if they are considering reporting the assault to the police. Law enforcement personnel are supposed to submit the SAK (also known as a “rape kit”) to a crime laboratory for forensic DNA testing, which can help identify or confirm the identity of the offender. However, police do not routinely submit SAKs for testing, and large stockpiles of untested kits have been found in police storage throughout the United States. Public outrage has prompted many cities to submit these older rape kits for DNA analysis, and this testing has identified thousands of suspected perpetrators. Police and prosecutors are re-opening these older sexual assault cases, which requires reestablishing contact with survivors who made the initial report years ago – a process referred to as “victim notification.” In this study, we conducted qualitative interviews with survivors who received a SAK victim notification and participated in the re-investigation and prosecution of their cases. We explored how survivors reacted to this de facto admission of an institutional betrayal and the emotions they felt during and after the notification. Participants experienced considerable emotional distress (e.g. PTSD, anxiety, fear), anger and betrayal, and hope after they were recontacted by the police. Implications for making victim notifications more trauma informed are discussed.

Is dissociation a fundamental component of ICD-11 Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

ABSTRACT ICD-11 Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is a disorder of six symptom clusters including reexperiencing, avoidance, sense of threat, affective dysregulation, negative self-concept, and disturbed relationships. Unlike earlier descriptions of complex PTSD, ICD-11 CPTSD does not list dissociation as a unique symptom cluster. We tested whether the ICD-11 CPTSD symptoms can exist independently of dissociation in a nationally representative sample of adults (N = 1,020) who completed self-report measures. Latent class analysis was used to identify unique subsets of people with distinctive symptom profiles. The best fitting model contained four classes including a “low symptoms” class (48.9%), a “PTSD” class (14.7%), a “CPTSD” class (26.5%), and a “CPTSD + Dissociation” class (10.0%). These classes were related to specific adverse childhood experiences, notably experiences of emotional and physical neglect. The “PTSD,” “CPTSD,” and “CPTSD + Dissociation” classes were associated with a host of poor health outcomes, however, the “CPTSD + Dissociation” class had the poorest mental health and highest levels of functional impairment. Findings suggest that ICD-11 CPTSD symptoms can occur without corresponding dissociative experiences, however, when CPTSD symptoms and dissociative experiences occur together, health outcomes appear to be more severe.

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