Dissociation predicts treatment response in eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing for posttraumatic stress disorder

J Trauma Dissociation. 2016;17(1):112-30. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2015.1037039. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


Using clinical data from a specialized trauma clinic, this study investigated pretreatment clinical factors predicting response to eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) among adult patients diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants were evaluated using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Dissociative Experiences Scale before treatment and were reassessed using the CAPS after treatment and at 6-month follow-up. A total of 69 patients underwent an average of 4 sessions of EMDR, and 60 (87%) completed the posttreatment evaluation, including 8 participants who terminated treatment prematurely. Intent-to-treat analysis revealed that 39 (65%) of the 60 patients were classified as responders and 21 (35%) as nonresponders when response was defined as more than a 30% decrease in total CAPS score. The nonresponders had higher levels of dissociation (depersonalization and derealization) and numbing symptoms, but other PTSD symptoms, such as avoidance, hyperarousal, and intrusion, were not significantly different. The number of psychiatric comorbidities was also associated with treatment nonresponse. The final logistic regression model yielded 2 significant variables: dissociation (p < .001) and more than 2 comorbidities compared to none (p < .05). These results indicate that complex symptom patterns in PTSD may predict treatment response and support the inclusion of the dissociative subtype of PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

Keywords: Posttraumatic stress disorder; comorbidity; dissociation; eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing; treatment response.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome