The Neuroscience of Dissociation – Clinical Application in Trauma Disorders

Posted on:January 20, 2023
Last Updated: June 8, 2023
Time to read: 27–33 minutes

Dissociative phenomena involve alterations in consciousness underlying the normal integration of thought, memory, emotions, sense of self, body awareness, and perception of the external environment.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a trauma and stress-related disorder that occurs in approximately 8% of individuals after exposure to trauma. [Yehuda and LeDoux 2007]

It features changes in cognition, arousal, mood, avoidance, and intrusion symptoms [APA 2013]; patients diagnosed with PTSD are also at a greater risk of suicide.

Dissociative symptomatology, such as those that affect identity, consciousness, and motor control [APA 2013], can appear in approximately 15 to 30% of patients with PTSD.

In this article, we will focus mainly on the neuroscience of dissociation, as the phenomenon is common to various dissociative disorders. However, we will also outline the relevance to clinical practice in relation to diagnosis and management.