Dissociation, shame, complex PTSD, child maltreatment and intimate relationship self-concept in dissociative disorder, chronic PTSD and mixed psychiatric groups.
Whilst a growing body of research has examined dissociation and other psychiatric symptoms in severe dissociative disorders (DDs), there has been no systematic examination of shame and sense of self in relationships in DDs. Chronic child abuse often associated with severe DDs, like dissociative identity disorder, is likely to heighten shame and relationship concerns. This study investigated complex posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline and Schneiderian symptoms, dissociation, shame, child abuse, and various markers of self in relationships (e.g., relationship esteem, relationship depression, fear of relationships). Methods: Participants were assessed via clinical interview with psychometrically sound questionnaires. They fell into three diagnostic groups, dissociative disorder (n¼39; primarily dissociative identity disorder), chronic PTSD (Chr-PTSD; n¼13) or mixed psychiatric presentations (MP; n¼21; primarily mood and anxiety disorders). All participants had a history of child abuse and/or neglect, and the groups did not differ on age and gender. Results: The DD group was higher on nearly all measured variables than the MP group, and had more severe dissociative, borderline and Schneiderian symptoms than the Chr-PTSD sample. Shame and complex PTSD symptoms fell marginally short of predicting reductions in relationship esteem, pathological dissociative symptoms predicted increased relationship depression, and complex PTSD symptoms predicted fear of relationships. Limitations: The representativeness of the samples was unknown. Conclusion: Severe psychiatric symptoms differentiate DDs from chronic PTSD, while dissociation and shame have a meaningful impact on specific markers of relationship functioning in psychiatric patients with a history of child abuse and neglect.