Psychological mechanisms connected to dissociation: Generating hypotheses using network analyses
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Emma Černis, Anke Ehlers, Daniel Freeman, Psychological mechanisms connected to dissociation: Generating hypotheses using network analyses, Journal of Psychiatric Research, Volume 148, 2022, Pages 165-173
A large number of mechanisms, many relating to the processing of affect, have been proposed to cause dissociation. The aim of this study was to use network analyses to identify psychological processes most closely connected with ‘felt sense of anomaly’ dissociative experiences. Both an undirected model and a partially directed network model were estimated using data from 6161 general population respondents collected online. The networks were used to identify relationships between dissociation and ten candidate mechanisms: cognitive appraisals, behavioural responses to dissociation, affect intolerance, alexithymia, attentional control, body vigilance, anxiety sensitivity, general self-efficacy, perseverative thinking, and beliefs regarding stress. Both models indicated a highly connected network in which dissociation had direct connections with six psychological processes: cognitive appraisals, behavioural responses, perseverative thinking, alexithymia, general self-efficacy, and beliefs about being overwhelmed. The strongest connection in both networks was between dissociation and cognitive appraisals (causal effect 0.73). The causal direction of connections could not be statistically determined with confidence, apart from the strong probability that dissociation causes meta-cognitions about being overwhelmed (98.54% of 50,000 sampled directed acyclic graphs). Both networks suggest that cognitive appraisals and factors relating to heightened (negative) sensitivity to affect are closely connected to dissociation. Dissociative experiences may arise from a high sensitivity to affect leading to threat-based appraisals that are ruminated upon and maintained by unhelpful behaviours such as avoidance. Investigation of these relationships in clinical groups, and direct causal tests, are required.