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Dissociation (Defense Mechanism)

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Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences


When dissociation is used as a defense mechanism, the individual copes with acute emotional stress by changing the usual awareness of self, that is, by feeling detached from the usual sense of body (depersonalization) or surroundings (derealization), or by breaking the autobiographic continuity across time, which can lead to amnesias, or an unstable or divided sense of self (like different personalities in one body). In this process, stressors are put out of conscious awareness. Dissociation has been also defined as “lack of normal integration of thoughts, feelings, and experiences into the stream of consciousness and memory” (Bernstein and Putnam 1986, p. 727). As a maladaptive mechanism, the lack of awareness of the stressor impedes effective problem solving.


Dissociation appears to be a personality trait ranging from common, mild, and transient states to chronic and pathological conditions (Ray et al. 1992) and might not necessarily be always a defense...

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Correspondence to Rui Miguel Costa .

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Costa, R.M. (2020). Dissociation (Defense Mechanism). In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham.

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