Autonomic response in depersonalisation disorder


Background Emotional-processing inhibition has been suggested as a mechanism underlying some of the clinical features of depersonalization and/or derealization. In this study, we tested the prediction that autonomic response to emotional stimuli would be reduced in patients with depersonalization disorder. Methods The skin conductance responses of 15 patients with chronic depersonalization disorder according to DSM-IV, 15 controls, and 11 individuals with anxiety disorders according to DSM-IV, were recorded in response to nonspecific elicitors (an unexpected clap and taking a sigh) and in response to 15 randomized pictures with different emotional valences: 5 unpleasant, 5 pleasant, and 5 neutral. Results The skin conductance response to unpleasant pictures was significantly reduced in patients with depersonalization disorder (magnitude of 0.017 µsiemens in controls and 0.103 µsiemens in patients with anxiety disorders; P = .01). Also, the latency of response to these stimuli was significantly prolonged in the group with depersonalization disorder (3.01 seconds compared with 2.5 and 2.1 seconds in the control and anxiety groups, respectively; P = .02). In contrast, latency to nonspecific stimuli (clap and sigh) was significantly shorter in the depersonalization and anxiety groups (1.6 seconds) than in controls (2.3 seconds) (P = .03). Conclusions In depersonalization disorder, autonomic response to unpleasant stimuli is reduced. The fact that patients with depersonalization disorder respond earlier to a startling noise suggests that they are in a heightened state of alertness and that the reduced response to unpleasant stimuli is caused by a selective inhibitory mechanism on emotional processing.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > Clinical and Systems Neuroscience
College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Additional Information: Publisher's version/PDF may be used, 12 months embargo. Autonomic Response in Depersonalization Disorder
Uncontrolled Keywords: emotional-processing inhibition,clinical features,depersonalization,derealization,autonomic response,emotional stimuli,depersonalization disorder,startling noise,state of alertness,unpleasant stimuli,selective inhibitory mechanism,emotional processing,Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous),Psychiatry and Mental health
Publication ISSN: 1538-3636
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 17:44
Date Deposited: 17 May 2011 11:30
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
https://jamanet ... larticle/206726 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2002-09
Authors: Sierra, Mauricio
Senior, Carl (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-2155-4139)
Dalton, Jeffrey
McDonough, Michael
Bond, Alison
Phillips, Mary L.
O'Dwyer, Anne M.
David, Anthony S.



Version: Published Version

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