Dissociation and violence: a review of the literature

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2004 Jan;5(1):21-46. doi: 10.1177/1524838003259321.


Violent acts are sometimes committed by people who do not normally appear violent or aggressive. This simple observation and others have led some to speculate about a relationship between dissociation and violence. However, no systematic review of the literature has so far been published. To address this gap, studies assessing the prevalence of dissociation among violent individuals, and violence among highly dissociative persons, are reviewed. Possible links between dissociation and violent behavior are explored. It is concluded that dissociation predicts violence in a wide range of populations and may be crucial to an understanding of violent behavior. There is a clear need, however, for large scale, well-designed studies using reliable structured instruments in a number of areas reviewed. Recommendations for clinical applications include the routine screening of offenders for dissociative disorders and adequate consideration of dissociation and dissociative disorders in the development and implementation of violence treatment and prevention programs.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Crime / psychology
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology*