Evidence from Two Longitudinal Studies concerning Internal Distress, External Stress, and Dissociative Trajectories

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Abstract

Dissociation is an alteration in consciousness that is viewed as an avoidant or repressive coping style in response to distress. Previous literature suggests that stressful life events (an external source of stress) bring about dissociation, and that dissociation is correlated with psychopathological symptoms (an internal source of distress). We examined the main and interactive effects of external stress and internal distress on dissociation using two longitudinal studies (Ns = 214 and 155), in which undergraduates were assessed for dissociation, stressful life events, and psychopathological symptoms. In both studies, internal distress predicted an elevation in dissociation when external stress was low but not when it was high. The effect of external stress on dissociation was moderated by baseline internal distress, albeit in an inconsistent manner. The findings suggest that the effects of internal and external pressures on dissociation are competing, and that elevated external stress derails the attempt to cope with internal distress using dissociative processes.
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalImagination, Cognition and Personality: consciousness in theory, research, clinical practice
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

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