Depersonalization Disorder: Directed Forgetting as a Function of Emotionality

Daphne Simeon, Margaret Knutelska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There exists some evidence for a link between dissociation and emotionally avoidant information processing, yet studies to date have been contradictory. Our goal was to investigate emotionally avoidant processing in Depersonalization Disorder (DDD) using a directed forgetting (DF) paradigm. Thirty-two participants with DSM-IV DDD and 40 healthy controls performed an item-method DF task using positive, negative, and neutral words. Participants were also administered the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). The DDD group demonstrated significantly lower directed forgetting for negative, but not positive or neutral, words compared to controls. In the combined sample, DES total, depersonalization/derealization, and amnesia scores significantly inversely predicted explicit cued recall for to-be-forgotten negative words (higher dissociation, lower forgetting), while the CTQ was not predictive. The findings do not support emotionally avoidant processing in this paradigm; rather, DDD may be characterized by a diminished capacity to actively control attention and direct it away from emotionally disturbing material when instructed to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-251
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Trauma and Dissociation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Dissociative disorders
  • amnesia
  • attention
  • childhood trauma
  • cognition
  • derealization
  • dissociation
  • emotion


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