Contextualizing Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders

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Multicultural Considerations for the Past, Present, & Future of our FieldContextualizing Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders

Nicholas A. Pierorazio, Christina M. Dardis, & Bethany L. Brand

Section Editor:

Claire J. Starrs

Dissociation is presently understood as a disconnection and/or disintegration in consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, somatic experience, motor functioning, and/or behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 2022). Dissociation may range from being normative (e.g., absorption) to complex (e.g., dissociative identities). Complex dissociation is posited as traumagenic (Dalenberg et al., 2012), with dissociative disorders (DDs) arising from complex trauma in childhood (Chu & Dill, 1990). Complex dissociation is prevalent; up to 4% of the United States’ general population report it (Simeon & Putnam, 2023).

Understanding the role of culture within the study of trauma, dissociation, and DDs is difficult (Krüger, 2020b). Many studies define culture as one dimension of identity, such as nationality. However, culture is multidimensional and often nested below the surface of an individual’s experience. Specifically, individuals hold layers of identities (e.g., Black, woman, mother, writer) and exist within layers of systems that influence their meaning-making about trauma, its sequelae, and related healing processes (Brown, 2008). Research exploring the intersection between culture and dissociation has been nebulous, as is the history of defining and understanding dissociation itself.

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