Mental Health Matters
Forensic Edition
September 2018
Published by:  Lepage Associates
Psychological & Psychiatric Services
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 Dissociation and Forensic Psychology

How can you tell if a party is truly dissociating, or just pretending to do so to benefit their case? Since dissociation during a traumatic event is common, forensic psychologists play a vital role in determining credible reports of dissociation from cases of malingering in which individuals are looking to escape liability for violent actions.

The DSM-5 defines dissociation as a disruption in the normal integration of consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, and behavior. We all have experienced episodes of dissociation (e.g. daydreaming), but those with dissociative disorders will describe a different experience. For instance, their dissociative symptoms are intrusive, cause distress, and impair daily functioning. Dissociative disorders are characterized by the presence of positive symptoms (e.g. flashbacks, fragmentation of identity), which are intrusions that disrupt awareness and the stability of one's subjective experiences. Individuals may also experience negative symptoms (e.g. amnesia) in which one is unable to recall or control information about the self that should otherwise be easily accessible or controllable.
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