Evidence for subjective emotional numbing following induced acute dissociation

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The aim of the study was to examine the effects of acute dissociation on emotional responsivity in healthy individuals. We used a previously validated technique (mirror-gazing, Caputo, 2010) to experimentally induce acute dissociation in non-clinical participants and assessed post-induction subjective responsivity (ratings of valence and arousal) to standardized emotional images. Fifty non-clinical participants were randomised to either the dissociation induction (n=25) or control conditions (n=25). The dissociation manipulation effect was corroborated by a significant post-induction elevation in state dissociation in the dissociation-induction group relative to controls (p=.004). The dissociation-induction group rated negative (p=.028) and neutral (p=.025) stimuli as significantly less unpleasant than controls. There was also a non-significant trend for positive stimuli to be rated as less pleasant by the dissociation-induction group compared to controls (p=.060). These findings provide experimental evidence for the short-term alleviation (i.e., emotional numbing) of negative affect during dissociative states, which may serve as a coping mechanism for some individuals. However, this tendency of emotional numbing also reduced positive affective responses to pleasant stimuli to some extent. Further investigation of dissociative phenomena and their impact on emotional processing appears warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103407
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Early online date18 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Depersonalization
  • Dissociation
  • Emotional numbing
  • Emotional processing
  • Mirror-gazing


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