Dissociation is a psychological state or condition in which certain thoughts, emotions, sensations, or memories are separated from the rest of the psyche.
The French psychiatrist Pierre Janet (1859-1947) coined the term in his book L'Automatisme psychologique; he emphasized its role as a defensive maneuver in response to psychological trauma. While he considered dissociation an initially effective defense mechanism that withdraws the individual psychologically from the impact of overwhelming traumatic events, a habitual tendency to dissociate would, however, promote psychopathology.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders considers symptoms such as depersonalization, derealization, and psychogenic amnesia as core features of dissociation. However, in the normal population mild dissociative experiences are highly prevalent, with 80% to 90% of the respondents indicating that they experience dissociative experiences at least some of the time.
Clinical dissociation has to an extent fallen from vogue in modern Psychology. Though it does resurface in cycles, most recently as multiple personality disorder. Dissociation has a storied role in murder trials, often given as a reason for a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.
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