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Assessing responsiveness to direct verbal suggestions in depersonalization-derealization disorder

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L. S.Merritt Millman, Elaine C.M. Hunter, Anthony S. David, Guido Orgs, Devin B. Terhune

Original languageEnglish
Article number114730
JournalPsychiatry Research
PublishedSep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This research is supported by a Departmental PhD Bursary held by L. S. Merritt Millman within the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. The Department of Psychology had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication. Devin B. Terhune was supported by Bial Foundation bursary 70/16. Publisher Copyright: © 2022

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The dissociative disorders and germane conditions are reliably characterized by elevated responsiveness to direct verbal suggestions. However, it remains unclear whether atypical responsiveness to suggestion is similarly present in depersonalization-derealization disorder (DDD). 55 DDD patients and 36 healthy controls completed a standardised behavioural measure of direct verbal suggestibility that includes a correction for compliant responding (BSS-C), and psychometric measures of depersonalization-derealization (CDS), mindfulness (FFMQ), imagery vividness (VVIQ), and anxiety (GAD-7). Relative to controls, patients did not exhibit elevated suggestibility (g = 0.26, BF10 =.11) but displayed significantly lower mindfulness (g = 1.38), and imagery vividness (g = 0.63), and significantly greater anxiety (g = 1.39). Although suggestibility did not correlate with severity of depersonalization-derealization symptoms in controls, r = -.03 [95% CI: -.36,.30], there was a weak tendency for a positive association in patients, r =.25, [95% CI: -.03,.48]. Exploratory analyses revealed that patients with more severe anomalous bodily experiences were also more responsive to suggestion, an effect not seen in controls. This study demonstrates that DDD is not characterized by elevated responsiveness to direct verbal suggestions. These results have implications for the aetiology and treatment of this condition, as well as its classification as a dissociative disorder in psychiatric nosology.

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