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J Trauma Dissociation. 2006;7(4):7-28.

Different types of "dissociation" have different psychological mechanisms.

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Academic Division of Clinical Psychology, University of Manchester, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Manchester, UK.


The term "dissociation" has been used to describe a wide range of psychological and psychiatric phenomena. The popular conception of dissociation describes it as a unitary phenomenon, with only quantitative differences in severity between the various dissociative conditions. More recently, it has been argued that the available evidence is more consistent with a model that identifies at least two distinct categories of dissociative phenomena-"detachment" and "compartmentalization"- that have different definitions, mechanisms and treatment implications (Holmes, Brown, Mansell, Fearon, Hunter, Frasquilho & Oakley 2005). This paper presents evidence for this bipartite model of dissociation, followed by definitions and descriptions of detachment and compartmentalization. Possible psychological mechanisms underlying these phenomena are then discussed, with particular emphasis on the nature of compartmentalization in conversion disorder, hypnosis, dissociative amnesia and dissociative identity disorder.

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