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Dissociation in patients with dissociative seizures: relationships with trauma and seizure symptoms

  • S. Pick (a1) (a2), J. D. C. Mellers (a3) and L. H. Goldstein (a1)
Abstract
Background

This study aimed to extend the current understanding of dissociative symptoms experienced by patients with dissociative (psychogenic, non-epileptic) seizures (DS), including psychological and somatoform types of symptomatology. An additional aim was to assess possible relationships between dissociation, traumatic experiences, post-traumatic symptoms and seizure manifestations in this group.

Method

A total of 40 patients with DS were compared with a healthy control group (n = 43), matched on relevant demographic characteristics. Participants completed several self-report questionnaires, including the Multiscale Dissociation Inventory (MDI), Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire-20, Traumatic Experiences Checklist and the Post-Traumatic Diagnostic Scale. Measures of seizure symptoms and current emotional distress (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) were also administered.

Results

The clinical group reported significantly more psychological and somatoform dissociative symptoms, trauma, perceived impact of trauma, and post-traumatic symptoms than controls. Some dissociative symptoms (i.e. MDI disengagement, MDI depersonalization, MDI derealization, MDI memory disturbance, and somatoform dissociation scores) were elevated even after controlling for emotional distress; MDI depersonalization scores correlated positively with trauma scores while seizure symptoms correlated with MDI depersonalization, derealization and identity dissociation scores. Exploratory analyses indicated that somatoform dissociation specifically mediated the relationship between reported sexual abuse and DS diagnosis, along with depressive symptoms.

Conclusions

A range of psychological and somatoform dissociative symptoms, traumatic experiences and post-traumatic symptoms are elevated in patients with DS relative to healthy controls, and seem related to seizure manifestations. Further studies are needed to explore peri-ictal dissociative experiences in more detail.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: L. H. Goldstein, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, PO77, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. (Email: laura.goldstein@kcl.ac.uk)
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