Dissociation: An insufficiently recognized major feature of complex posttraumatic stress disorder

J Trauma Stress. 2005 Oct;18(5):413-23. doi: 10.1002/jts.20049.


The role of dissociation in (complex) posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been insufficiently recognized for at least two reasons: the view that dissociation is a peripheral, not a central feature of PTSD, and existing confusion regarding the nature of dissociation. In this conceptual article, the authors address both issues by postulating that traumatization essentially involves some degree of division or dissociation of psychobiological systems that constitute personality. One or more dissociative parts of the personality avoid traumatic memories and perform functions in daily life, while one or more other parts remain fixated in traumatic experiences and defensive actions. Dissociative parts manifest in negative and positive dissociative symptoms that should be distinguished from alterations of consciousness. Complex PTSD involves a more complex structural dissociation than simple PTSD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consciousness
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dissociative Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Self Concept
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology