Dissociative Absorption, Mind-Wandering, and Attention Deficit Symptoms: Associations with Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms Academic Article uri icon


  • Objective: Dissociative absorption is a tendency to become absorbed in imagination or in an external stimulus (movie, book) to the point of obliviousness to one’s surroundings and reduced self-awareness. It has been hypothesized to play a role in the maintenance of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. However, because absorption is a trait of reduced attentional control, a possible confound may be attention-deficit/ hyperactivity (ADHD) symptoms, which have been reported to be comorbid with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The present study aimed to validate dissociative absorption as unique from ADHD symptoms as well as from mind-wandering and to show that it has incremental predictive value over these constructs in predicting obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Design: Cross-sectional. Method: Three-hundred and three undergraduate students completed online questionnaires, which were analyzed using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. Results: As hypothesized, dissociative absorption emerged as a unique construct, separate from ADHD and mind-wandering (whereas the latter two were not completely separate from each other). Additionally, absorption was uniquely associated with obsessive-compulsive symptoms, with a moderate-to-strong effect size, demonstrating incremental predictive value over the other constructs. Conclusions: Attentional deficits and mind-wandering cannot account for the association between absorption and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Future research should explore whether reports of comorbidity between ADHD and obsessive-compulsive symptoms may be inflated due to misdiagnosis of absorption tendencies as ADHD.

publication date

  • January 1, 2019