Animal defensive reactions as a model for trauma-induced dissociative reactions

Authors

  • Ellert R. S. Nijenhuis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Vrije Universiteit, Valeriusplein 9, 1075 BG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Outpatient Department General Psychiatric Hospital Drenthe, Assen, The Netherlands
    • Department of Psychiatry, Vrije Universiteit, Valeriusplein 9, 1075 BG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Johan Vanderlinden,

    1. University Center St.-Jozef, Kortenberg, Belgium
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  • Philip Spinhoven

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University, The Netherlands
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Abstract

Patients with complex dissociative disorders remain in alternating psychophysiological states which are discrete, discontinuous, and resistant against integrative tendencies. In this contribution, a parallel is drawn between animal defensive and recuperative states that are evoked in the face of severe threat and the characteristic responses of dissociative disorder patients as displayed in major dissociative states. Empirical data and clinical observations seem to be supportive of the idea that there are similarities between freezing, concomitant development of analgesia and anesthesia, and acute pain in threatened animals and severely traumatized human beings.

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