Comparing the symptoms and mechanisms of “dissociation” in dissociative identity disorder and borderline personality disorder
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A total of 75 patients were diagnosed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders-Revised as having dissociative identity disorder (DID), and 100 patients were diagnosed with the Structured Interview for DSM-IV Personality as having borderline personality disorder (BPD). Both groups were administered the Multidimensional Inventory of Dissociation (MID). DID patients had significantly higher MID scores than BPD patients, different distributions of MID scores, and different MID subscale profiles in 3 ranges of MID scores (0-15, 15-30, 30-45). The core MID symptoms-exhibited at all ranges of MID scores-for DID patients (the presence of alters, identity confusion, and memory problems) and BPD patients (flashbacks, identity confusion, and memory problems) were ostensibly similar but were considered to be mostly produced by different underlying processes. Multiple regression analyses showed that the core MID symptoms of DID patients had different predictors than did the core MID symptoms of BPD patients. Alter identities seemed to generate most-but not all-dissociative phenomena in DID patients, whereas only the 24% highest scoring BPD patients (MID ≥45) seemed to manifest alter-driven dissociative experiences. Most BPD dissociative experiences appeared to be due to 5 other mechanisms: (a) BPD-specific, stress-driven, rapid shifts of self-state; (b and c) nondefensive disruptions of the framework of perceptual organization with or without an accompanying BPD-specific, dissociation-like disintegration of affective/neurocognitive functioning; (d) a defensive distancing or detachment from distress (i.e., simple depersonalization); and (e) Allen, Console, and Lewis's (1999) severe absorptive detachment.
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