Trauma can cause dissociative symptoms—such as having an out-of-body experience, or feeling emotionally numb—that may help an individual cope in the short term but can have negative impacts if the symptoms persist for a long period of time.
In a new study recently published in Neuropsychopharmacology, a team led by investigators at McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a member of Mass General Brigham, has identified regions within brain networks that communicate with each other when people experience different types of dissociative symptoms.
- Following trauma, dissociative symptoms—such as detachment and out-of-body experiences—can negatively impact an individual’s ability to function
- In a study of nearly 100 women, participants with certain dissociative symptoms had increased connections within some brain networks and decreased connections within others
- The new findings shed light on the brain connectivity associated with these debilitating symptoms and ultimately may help clinicians diagnose and treat affected patients
“Dissociation and severe dissociative disorders like dissociative identity disorder or ‘DID’ remain at best underappreciated and, at worst, frequently go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed,” said co-lead author Lauren A.M. Lebois, PhD, director of the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program.
“The cost of this stigmatization and misdiagnosis is high—it has prevented people from accessing appropriate and effective treatment, caused prolonged suffering, and stunted research on dissociation. In addition, given that DID disproportionately affects women, gender disparity is an important issue in this context.”