Dissociation & Survival Training

Research Paper Title

Spontaneous and Deliberate Dissociative States in Military Personnel: Are Such States Helpful?

Background

This study explored distinctions between spontaneous and deliberate dissociative states in 335 military personnel exposed to stressful survival training.

Methods

Participants completed the Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale (CADSS) after a stressful mock-captivity event. They were also asked to indicate whether the dissociative experiences just happened (i.e., spontaneous), or whether they chose to have them happen (i.e., deliberate); and whether they appraised the dissociative experience as helpful (i.e., facilitative) or hurtful (i.e., debilitative) to their ability to cope with the stressful event.

Results

A majority (95.4%) endorsed dissociative states during stress. More than half (57.4%) described dissociative experiences as spontaneous, 13.0% as deliberate, and 29.5% endorsed neither. In Special Forces soldiers only, those who endorsed facilitative dissociation exhibited higher total CADSS scores than those who endorsed debilitative dissociation. Seventy-three percent of spontaneous dissociators described the experience as debilitative to coping with stress; conversely, 76% of deliberate dissociators said these experiences facilitated coping with stress. Individuals with prior trauma exposure tended to appraise dissociative states as more debilitative to coping.

Conclusions

This research may enhance the fidelity of studies of dissociation constructs and may offer pivot points for prevention and treatment of stress-related disorders.

Reference

Morgan, C.A. 3rd & Taylor, M.K. (2013) Spontaneous and Deliberate Dissociative States in Military Personnel: Are Such States Helpful? Journal of Traumatic Stress. 26(4), pp.492-497.

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