Dissociative experiences during sexual behavior among a sample of adults living with HIV infection and a history of childhood sexual abuse

J Trauma Dissociation. 2012;13(3):345-60. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2011.641710.


Little attention has been given to the occurrence of dissociative symptoms during sexual behavior in adults who have experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA). For this study, 57 adults living with HIV infection who had experienced CSA and were entering a treatment study for traumatic stress completed study assessments and clinical interviews, including a 15-item scale of dissociative experiences during sexual behavior. Predictor variables included Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative disorders, rape by an intimate partner, duration of CSA, number of perpetrators of CSA, and current sexual satisfaction. A multiple regression analysis was conducted to identify significant associations between predictors and dissociation during sex. Mean differences by clinical diagnosis were also examined. Results indicated that PTSD, dissociative disorders, rape by an intimate partner, duration of CSA, and number of perpetrators of CSA were associated with increased dissociation during sexual behavior. Dissociation during sex likely increases vulnerability to sexual revictimization and risky sexual behavior. Standard behavioral prevention interventions may be ineffective for sexual situations when dissociation occurs, and prevention efforts should be integrated with mental health care for those who have experienced CSA.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*