Dissociative absorption, mind-wandering, and attention-deficit symptoms: Associations with obsessive-compulsive symptoms

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35 Scopus citations


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 (OC) 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). This 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 OC symptoms. Design: Cross-sectional. Method: Three-hundred and three undergraduate students completed online questionnaires, which were analysed 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 OC 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 OC symptoms. Future research should explore whether reports of comorbidity between ADHD and OC symptoms may be inflated due to misdiagnosis of absorption tendencies as ADHD. Practitioner points: Dissociative absorption is a personality tendency that may interact with obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and thus, it may deserve clinical attention when treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Dissociative absorption might bring about an unnecessary diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in individuals with obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and thus, it should be screened for. This study was based on a non-clinical sample; future studies should replicate the findings among samples with an OCD diagnosis. This study is based on self-report questionnaires; future studies should use clinician interviews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-69
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder
  • dissociation
  • inferential confusion
  • mind-wandering
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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