Study of stress and vulnerability in patients with somatoform and dissociative disorders in a psychiatric clinic in North India


Ajit Avasthi, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. Email:


Abstract  The authors compared perceived stress in subgroups of patients defined by vulnerability (high and low) and disorder (somatoform and dissociative). A total of 30 patients each of somatoform and dissociative disorders diagnosed according to the classification of mental and behavioral disorders criteria were assessed with Presumptive Stressful Life Event Scale, The Hassles Scale, Psychoticism Extraversion Neuroticism Inventory, Dissociative Experience Scale, Twenty-Item Toronto Alexithyma Scale, and Illness Behavior Questionnaire. Somatoform and dissociative disorder groups had comparable scores on measures of perceived stress and vulnerability. Two-way anova showed significant main effect of neuroticism (F = 13.65, d.f. = 1.56, P < 0.01), psychoticism (F = 7.92, d.f. = 1.56, P < 0.01), illness behavior (F = 5.82, d.f. = 1.56, P < 0.05), and dissociative experience (F = 8.45, d.f. = 1.56, P < 0.01) on total hassles score, but no significant main effect of disorder groups or interaction effect for disorder and vulnerability was seen on total hassles score. No significant main or interaction effect was seen on life events score. Similarities were seen in stress and vulnerability factors in the two disorders. Neuroticism, psychoticism, dissociative experience, and abnormal illness behavior were significantly related to stress (daily hassles) perceived by the patient, irrespective of the disorder.