Daily elevations in dissociative absorption and depersonalization in a non-clinical sample are related to daily stress and psychopathological symptoms. Academic Article uri icon


  • Objective: Dissociative experiences are associated with several psychopathological symptoms, and are a hindrance to therapeutic gain. Depersonalization-derealization (DEP-DER) is positively associated with stress and anxiety, while absorption and imaginative involvement (ABS), a tendency for total, immersed attention, is commonly referred to as “non-pathological dissociation”, although it is positively associated with obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms. Previous studies in the field have been mainly cross-sectional. The present study aimed to examine these associations rigorously and attempted to determine directionality between dissociation and distress. Method: The current study employed both variable-centered (cross-sectional) and person-centered (longitudinal, within-subjects) analyses of the associations of DEP-DER and ABS with distress. Undergraduate students (N=184) completed trait questionnaires on dissociation, stress, anxiety, depression, and OC symptoms, and n=78 also completed questionnaires assessing the same constructs daily for fourteen days. Multiple regression and multilevel modeling analyses were conducted. Results: In the cross-sectional phase, DEP-DER was uniquely positively related to anxiety and OC symptoms, and ABS was uniquely positively related to OC symptoms. In the daily diary phase, increases in DEP-DER were related to increases in anxiety, depression, OC symptoms, and stress, while increases in ABS were related to increases in OC symptoms and stress. Additionally, time-lag analysis showed that ABS tended to temporally precede OC. Conclusions: ABS foretold increases in OC symptoms, at least in this non-clinical sample. Future studies on clinical samples should explore whether it should be referred to as “non-pathological”, and its possible role in the development or maintenance of clinical-level OCD.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017