Type and Timing of Childhood Maltreatment and Severity of Dissociation in Patients with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder

Dissociation, particularly the shutting down of sensory, motor and speech systems, has been proposed to emerge in susceptible individuals as a defensive response to traumatic stress. In contrast, other individuals show signs of hyperarousal to acute threat.

A key question is whether exposure to particular types of stressful events during specific stages of development can program an individual to have a strong dissociative response to subsequent stressors.


Severity of shutdown dissociation was related to number of childhood but not adult traumatic events.

The study suggested… peak vulnerability occurring at 13-14 years of age and with exposure to emotional neglect followed by various forms of emotional abuse. These findings suggest that there may be windows of vulnerability to the development of shutdown dissociation.


Full Text of study here:

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My ex-wife could go back and forth from baseline, chronic (but somehow “functional”) dissociation to brief “blasts” of abandonment-fearing hyper-arousal two or three times a day. Her father (and grandfather) had used her body from the time she was two until she was thirteen. She was never floridly psychotic for more than brief periods, but they seemed to come out of left field until I understood that she was utterly hypervigilant for signs of either abuse of abandonment… and that her mind was projecting those circumstances into the people around her. Last I knew, she was still “lah-de-dah” most of the time, but functioning pretty well. But (on occasion) still full of at least more appropriately directed rage toward her now deceased father.