Tracking scientific interest in the dissociative disorders: a study of scientific publication output 1984-2003

Psychother Psychosom. 2006;75(1):19-24. doi: 10.1159/000089223.


Objective: We attempted to track scientific interest in dissociative amnesia and dissociative identity disorder by estimating the annual output of publications regarding these entities over the last 20 years.

Methods: Using a standard medical index, PsycINFO, we counted the number of indexed publications involving dissociative amnesia and dissociative identity disorder listed for each year. We then compared these rates with those of well-established diagnoses such as anorexia nervosa, alcohol abuse, and schizophrenia. We also systematically reviewed all publications involving dissociative amnesia that appeared in 2003.

Results: Annual publications involving dissociative amnesia and dissociative identity disorder rose from low levels in the 1980's to a sharp peak in the mid 1990's, followed by an equally sharp decline to only about one quarter of their peak levels by 2002 and 2003. In contrast, all of the 25 comparison diagnoses in our survey showed constant or steadily rising publication rates; none showed the 'bubble' pattern of the dissociative disorders. Of the 34 papers involving dissociative amnesia identified by PsycINFO for 2003, 10 (32%) appeared skeptical of the validity of dissociative amnesia and/or recovered-memory therapy. Despite a detailed search using multiple medical indices and search terms, we could find only 13 explicit cases of individuals with dissociative amnesia worldwide in the 2003 literature.

Conclusions: Dissociative amnesia and dissociative identity disorder have not generated consistent scientific interest over the years, but instead apparently enjoyed a brief period of fashion that now has waned. Overall, our observations suggest that these diagnostic entities presently do not command widespread scientific acceptance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Publishing / trends*