The impact of dissociation and depression on the efficacy of prolonged exposure treatment for PTSD
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SourceBehaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 1, (2010), pp. 19-27
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
Behaviour Research and Therapy
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment
This study investigates the impact of dissociative phenomena and depression on the efficacy of prolonged exposure treatment in 71 patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Diagnoses, comorbidity, pretreatment depressive symptoms, PTSD symptom severity, and dissociative phenomena (trait dissociation, numbing, and depersonalization) were assessed at pretreatment using semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. In a pretreatment behavioral exposure test, patients were imaginally exposed to (part of) their trauma memory for 9 min, during which subjective fear was assessed. At posttreatment and 6 months follow-up PTSD, depressive and dissociative symptoms were again assessed in the completers (n = 60). Pretreatment levels of dissociative and depressive symptoms were similar in dropouts and completers and none of the dissociative phenomena nor depression predicted improvement. Against expectations, dissociative phenomena and depression were associated with enhanced rather than impeded fear activation during the behavioral exposure test. However, these effects disappeared after controlling for initial PTSD severity. Hence, rather than supporting contraindication, the current results imply that patients presenting with even severe dissociative or depressive symptoms may profit similarly from exposure treatment as do patients with minimal dissociative or depressive symptoms.
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