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Treatment Outcome

Two-Year Follow-Up of Inpatients
With Dissociative Identity Disorder


Joan W. Ellason, M.A., L.P.C., and Colin A. Ross, M.D.


Objective: A patient group of 135 inpatients with dissociative identity disorder was followed for two years to monitor treatment outcome.

Method: Fifty four of these patients were located and re-assessed after a two year period, by using the same self-report measures and structured clinical interviews that had been initially administered.

Results: The patients showed marked improvement on Schneiderian first rank symptoms, mood and anxiety disorders, dissociative symptoms, and somatization, with a significant decrease in the number of psychiatric medications prescribed. Patients who were treated to integration, were significantly more improved than those who had not yet reached integration.

Conclusion: Our findings, though preliminary, provide empirical validation of previous clinical impressions that patients with dissociative identity disorder may respond well to treatment.


(American Journal of Psychiatry 1997; 154:832-839)



Dissociative identity disorder (DSM-IV) is linked to intense childhood trauma (1-5) and is the most severe form of dissociative disorder (6-9). Traumatic experiences, including incest and childhood abuse experiences, have been linked to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (10-18) and axis I and II disorders (16, 19-23), including Schneiderian first rank symptoms (2-4, 6, 9, 20, 24), and behavioral dysfunction (25-44). Dissociative identity disorder, which is understood to be a disturbance resulting from severe forms of childhood abuse (1-3, 5, 45), presents with auditory hallucinations (46-49), severe depression and suicidality (50), phobic anxiety, somatization, substance abuse (51), and borderline features (4, 6, 14, 52-58). Studies of patients with dissociative identity disorder in several countries, including Canada, the United States, the Netherlands (59), and Turkey (60), consistently document multiple symptoms.

Freud's early theoretical framework recognized the developmental and emotional impact of trauma on the psyche (61, 62). Trauma, according to both Freudian theory and later studies manifests itself symptomatically (62) through dissociation, posttraumatic stress symptoms, somatization, other axis I syndromes, a developmentally disorganized characterological structure (1, 3, 5, 6, 17, 19, 23-27, 29-33, 38, 40, 42-45, 59), and personality decompensation (62).

Individuals with histories of severe trauma may change details of their retrospective reports over a period of time (63). Consistency of the trauma histories should be tracked systematically in follow-up studies of populations with amnesia symptoms.

Clinical research has begun to track the treatment progress of patients with dissociative identity disorder. These patients have shown noteworthy improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms, impulsivity and addictive behaviors, psychotic symptoms, interpersonal activities and day to day functioning among small patient groups (64; E. Smith, A. Mittelstet, unpublished data, 1995). Coons (65) followed the treatment progress of 20 patients and found that 5 had achieved complete integration over a 39 month period. Integration, as defined by Kluft (66), involves three stable months of continuity of contemporary memory, with the absence of behaviorally evident separate identities. The integrated patient will have a self-perception of internal unity, which is substantiated by the absence of alter identities during hypnotic re-exploration. Transference phenomena become consistent with the unity of the parts, and there is clinical evidence that the patient has incorporated previously separated attitudes and awarenesses into one unified whole. On meeting these criteria, 60% of patients maintain stable integration (66). Patients who reach integration tend to show a moderation of personality disorder characteristics (65), improved stability (66), and approximately half as much emotional turmoil as non-integrated patients (65).

Despite many clinical observations and preliminary studies (64-66; E Smith, A. Mittelstek, unpublished data, 1995) there remains a paucity of systematic empirical investigation of treatment outcome in dissociative identity disorder. The purpose of the present investigation was to track the long-term treatment progress, through symptom measures, and following hospitalization, in a large inpatient group of patients with dissociative identity disorder. These subjects, who participated in an earlier comorbidity study, conducted in 1992 and 1993, were contacted and reassessed following a two-year interval. Another aspect of this investigation involves comparison of patients' initial reports of childhood abuse with those described after a two year interval.

The major expectation of this study was to observe significant overall improvement in axis I and II symptom levels among patients with dissociative identity disorder. A secondary expectation was that patients achieving integration through treatment would show significantly more improvement than non-integrated patients. The number of medications and extent of hospitalization treatment was also examined among the integrated and non-integrated patients. A tertiary expectation was that patient reports of childhood abuse would be consistent from baseline to follow-up testing.

METHOD

Subjects

The initial patient group consisted of 135 inpatients at Charter Behavioral Health System of Dallas who were selected on the basis of having a clinical diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, as defined by DSM-III-R, proposed DSM-IV criteria, and structured interview, and unequivocally clear behavioral evidence of dissociative identity disorder. At initial assessment, permission for patient participation was obtained through the internal review board and the attending physician; following a thorough description of the study to the subjects, signed, written, informed consent was obtained regarding baseline and follow-up research. Not all of the 135 subjects completed all measures at baseline.


Procedure

Subjects were contacted by telephone and by mail, following a two year interval that involved primarily outpatient psychotherapy with medication. Follow-up interviews included the same assessments that were administered during the initial phase of the study. These were the Dissociative Experiences Scale (68, 69) and the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (67). Both of these instruments measure the severity of dissociation; the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule also inquires about childhood trauma and obtains demographic information. The Dissociative Experiences Scale is a 28-item self-report measure with good validity, and with test-re-test reliability of 0.84 (69); its updated version had a Pearson correlation of 0.95 with the original version among 87 inpatients with dissociative identity disorder (68), indicating good convergent validity. The Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule consists of 131 structured interview items that include demographic information and components to assess history of childhood trauma, consisting of allegations of physical and sexual abuse. The overall interrater reliability is 0.68, with a sensitivity of 95% and a specificity of 100% for the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (67). The structured and clinical interview diagnoses had a 99.1 % agreement rate in our initial patient group. One interview with the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule resulted in a false negative diagnosis, but the patient later confirmed previously denied symptoms of dissociative identity disorder thereby establishing a positive diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder through clinical interview. The PTSD section of the National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule (70) was also administered.

The prevalence of current axis I and II psychopathology was measured by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R (SCID I and SCID II) (71). The SCID I and II are widely published instruments designed to assess axis I and II disorders. The Beck Depression Inventory (72) and the Hamilton Rating Scale (73) were also administered. In addition, we tabulated previous and current psychiatric medications and the estimated total number of inpatient days and number of hospitalizations both before and after 1993.

Of the original patient group (N = 135), 62 (45.9%) were located. Of those contacted (N = 62), 54 (87.1%) were re-interviewed. Seventy three (54.1%) either had no forwarding address or did not respond to phone calls and letters. Only one patient (1.6%) of those contacted refused to participate because of retraction of the diagnosis. Other reasons given for declining follow-up were willingness to participate at a later date when less preoccupied with the therapeutic process (reason given by a small number of patients), refusal due to continued trust issues (one patient), and initial willingness to be re-interviewed which was prevented by a subsequent job injury. Patients who could not be reached by telephone were mailed information; letters that were returned with no forwarding address prevented further efforts at follow-up contact.

Follow-up interviews were completed by a series of telephone calls for patients in other parts of the United States and Canada (N = 36, 66.7%), with the exception of one non-local patient (1.9%), who traveled to our office for the interview. All interviews for local patients (N = 15, 27.8%) were conducted in person, with the exception of two patients (3.7%), whose schedules would not permit travel to the office. All re-interviewed patients were outpatients, with the exception of one who was in day hospital treatment during part of the interview. Along with follow-up symptom measures, patients were administered identical questions about their abuse histories, with no cues or information given about their baseline responses.

Following additional informed consent, therapists were consulted on all six of the criteria for integration outlined by Kluft (66). Patients were considered to be integrated on the basis of two prerequisites: 1) fulfillment of all six of Kluft's criteria for integration, and 2) current failure to meet DSM-III-R and DSM-IV criteria for dissociative identity disorder on structured interview (67).


Data Analyses

Baseline data on demographic, Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule abuse history, and all measures were compared among participants and non-participants using two-tailed t tests for continuous data and chi square tests for dichotomous data. All subjects completed the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule at baseline and at follow-up. At baseline all 54 subjects completed the Dissociative Experiences Scale, while 51 completed this instrument at follow-up. The Beck inventory was completed by 47 patients initially and by 49 at follow-up. The Hamilton depression scale had 47 and 48 baseline and follow-up subjects, respectively. SCID I had 48 and 49 subjects, at baseline and follow-up, while the SCID II had the same number at baseline and follow-up (N = 47). Follow-up participants who did and did not achieve integration were compared at baseline also on the previously described variables.

Gender, marital status, age, employment status, types sexual of abuse, and the number of perpetrators of physical and sexual abuse were tabulated. Mean values were calculated on continuous variables, and the prevalence of axis I and II disorders were tabulated as percentages of subjects with such disorders. Chi Square and paired t tests were used to compare baseline and follow-up scores. The time frames for the Beck inventory, and the Hamilton depression scale were symptom levels during the previous week. The time frames for the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule, SCID I and SCID II were the previous year. For medications, the time frame was the past two years both at baseline and at follow-up. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) for repeated measures was conducted by using the General Linear Model program of SAS, which is designed to analyze data, unbalanced in subject number; SAS defaults at a maximum p value of 0.0001.

TABLE 1. SCID Axis I and II Diagnoses and Dissociative, Mood Disorder, and Overall Symptoms Among Patients With Dissociative Identity Disorder at Baseline and 2-Year Follow-Up
1993
1995
Analysisa











Measure
N
Mean
SD
Mean
SD
t
df
p











Number of SCID-I, SCID-II, and total current diagnoses
SCID-I (axis I)
40
7.3
2.2
3.5
2.2
7.6
39
0.00001
SCID-II (axis II)
43
3.6
2.3
2.2
2.5
3.0
42
0.004
SCID I and SCID-II total
38
10.8
3.8
5.4
3.9
6.0
37
0.00001
Dissociative, mood, and overall symptom scores
Dissociative Experiences Scale
50
52.4
19.1
33.0
20.1
6.5
49
0.00001
Beck Depression Inventory
45
33.4
12.1
23.2
13.1
4.7
44
0.00001
Hamilton Depression Rating Scale
46
43.4
11.6
28.4
12.9
6.5
45
0.00001
Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule scores
Somatic Symptoms
54
17.2
7.0
10.8
7.5
5.6
53
0.00001
Substance Abuse
54
1.1
1.2
0.3
0.6
5.0
53
0.00001
Depression
54
7.6
0.8
6.2
2.9
3.6
53
0.0007
Schneiderian first-rank symptoms
54
6.8
2.9
4.2
3.0
5.8
53
0.00001
Features of dissociative identity disorder
54
11.5
2.7
8.6
3.8
5.3
53
0.00001
Borderline features
54
5.5
1.8
3.7
2.3
5.4
53
0.00001
Extrasensory perception
54
6.5
3.5
3.2
2.8
7.7
53
0.00001
Amnesia
54
4.7
0.6
3.9
1.6
3.9
53
0.0003

    aPaired samples t tests

RESULTS

Independent samples t test comparison of follow-up participants and nonparticipants on all measures used in this study showed no significant differences on demographic data, abuse history, or symptom variables at baseline, except for SCID I panic disorder. This disorder was present at baseline in 40 (83.3%) of 48 participants and was present in 34 (57.6%) of 59 non-participants (X2. = 7.0, df = 1, p = 0.008). Twelve subjects (22.2%) were identified as having achieved integration, according to Kluft's criteria (66) and structured interview (67). At baseline, the integrated subjects differed slightly from nonintegrated subjects in the number of Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule depression items (mean= 7.3, SD = 1.2, versus mean = 7.8, SD = 0.3; t = 2.1, df = 52, p = 0.04), and the integrated subjects had lower initial scores on the Hamilton depression scale (N = 12, mean = 36.5, SD = 11.9) than did the non integrated subjects (N = 37, mean = 46.3, SD = 10.4) (t = 2.7, df = 47, p = 0.009). Otherwise, there were no differences between integrated and non-integrated subjects at baseline.

Most of the patients who participated in follow-up were women (N = 48, 88.9%). The patients were fairly evenly distributed in marital status among single (N = 17, 31.5%), married (N = 18, 33.3%), and separated, widowed or divorced (N = 19, 35.2%). The mean age was 39.2 (SD = 9.2). No inquiry was conducted on socioeconomic status, however, slightly under half (N = 24, 44.4%) of the patients were employed at the time of the follow-up interview.

Medications and Hospitalizations

The reported average number of medications prescribed during the previous two years (mean = 3.8, SD = 2.4) was less in 1995 (mean = 2.5, SD = 1.4) (t = 4.1, df = 36, p = .0002). Among integrated subjects, the reduction in number of medications from 1993 to 1995 fell just short of significance, however, the non-integrated subjects reported significantly fewer medications in 1995 (mean = 2.8, SD = 1.4) than in 1993 (mean = 4.4, SD = 2.3) (t = 4.1, df = 28, p = .0003). At follow-up the patients reported (N = 32) an average of 2.7 hospitalizations (SD = 3.2) during the previous two years. For those who estimated their average number of inpatient days (N = 29), an average of 10.9 days (SD = 17.5) was indicated. All patients except for four (7.4%) reported consistently having outpatient psychotherapy during most of this two-year follow-up period.

Reports of Childhood Abuse

There were no significant differences in patients' 1993 and 1995 reports of childhood abuse. Fifty-three (98.1%) of the subjects reported having been physically or sexually abused during childhood. None of these subjects retracted their initial allegations.

Symptoms

Table 1 shows the follow-up results among all patients. In 1995 integrated and non-integrated patients differed significantly on all variables listed in table 1 except substance abuse: this was because of the excellent improvement in both groups on substance abuse scores. Paired samples t test showed that nonintegrated patients significantly improved in the number of current SCID I (N = 32) diagnoses (1993 mean = 7.2 SD = 2.4; 1995 mean = 4.1 SD = 2.0 t = 5.7, df = 31, p = .00001), Hamilton depression scale (N = 34) depression scores (1993 mean = 45.9, SD = 10.7, 1995 mean = 32.7 SD = 10.8, t = 5.1, df = 33, p = .00001), Dissociative Experiences Scale (N = 39) dissociative experiences scores (1993 mean = 52.9 SD = 20.8, 1995 mean = 38.0 SD = 19.4; t = 4.5, df = 38, p = .0001), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 42) extrasensory perception experiences (1993 mean = 6.6 SD = 3.7; 1995 mean = 3.5 SD = 3.0, t = 6.3, df = 41, p = .0001), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 42) Schneiderian first rank symptoms (1993 mean = 7.0 SD = 3.0; 1995 mean = 5.0 SD = 2.9; t = 4.0, df = 41, p = .0002), number of combined current SCID I and II (N = 30) diagnoses (1993 mean = 10.6 SD = 3.9; 1995 mean = 6.3 SD = 3.7; t = 4.3, df = 29, p = .0002), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 42) somatic symptoms (1993 mean =18.0 SD = 7.2; 1995 mean = 12.6 SD = 7.4; t = 4.0, df = 41, p = 0.0003), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 42) substance abuse items (1993 mean = 1.0, SD = 1.2; 1995 mean = 0.3 SD = 0.7; t = 3.6, df = 41, p = .0008), Beck inventory (N = 36) scores (1993 mean = 34.8 SD = 11.8, 1995 mean = 26.6 SD = 12.3); t = 8.2, df = 35, p = .001), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 42) borderline features (1993 mean = 5.4 SD = 1.8; 1995 mean = 4.3 SD = 2.3; t = 3.4, df = 41, p = .002), and Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 42) features of dissociative identity disorder (1993 mean = 11.6 SD = 2.9; 1995 mean = 9.8 SD = 2.7; t = 3.4, df = 41, p = .002). Improvement in the number of SCID II (N = 34) diagnoses fell just short of significance (1993 mean = 3.6 SD = 2.2; 1995 mean = 2.6 SD = 2.7; t = 3.6, df = 33, p = 0.056) among non-integrated patients.

Patients, who achieved integration, however, improved significantly on all variables. Paired samples t tests revealed the greatest improvement in SCID I (N = 8), (1993 mean =7.8 SD = 1.5; 1995 mean = 1.3 SD = 1.6; t = 10.9, df = 7, p = .00001), Dissociative Experiences Scale (N = 11) dissociative experiences scores (1993 mean = 50.5 SD = 12.2; 1995 mean = 15.4 SD = 10.2; t = 8.0, df = 10, p = .00001), and Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 12) borderline features (1993 mean = 5.9 SD = 1.7; 1995 mean = 1.7. SD = 1.2; t = 7.0, df = 11, p = .00001), followed by Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 12) Schneiderian first rank symptoms (1993 mean = 6.2 SD = 2.4; 1995 mean = 1.4 SD = 1.7; t = 5.7, df = 11, p = .0001), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 12) features of dissociative identity disorder (1993 mean = 11.2 SD = 1.7; 1995 mean = 4.1 SD = 3.9; t = 6.4, df = 11, p = .0001), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 12) somatic symptoms [1993 mean = 14.3 SD = 5.3; 1995 mean = 4.3 SD = 2.8; t = 5.8, df = 11, p = .0001), total number of SCID I and II (N = 8) diagnoses [1993 mean = 11.5 SD =3.7; 1995 mean = 1.9 SD = 2.0; t = 7.6, df = 7, p = .0001), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 12) amnesia items (1993 mean = 4.8 SD = 0.8; 1995 mean = 2.3 SD = 2.0; t = 4.6, df = 11, p = .0008), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 12) extrasensory perception (1993 mean = 5.8 SD = 3.2; 1995 mean = 1.9 SD = 1.5; t = 4.6, df = 11, p = .000), Beck inventory (N = 9) depression scores (1993 mean = 27.9 SD = 12.2; 1995 mean = 9.7 SD = 4.8; t = 4.0, df = 8, p = .004), Hamilton depression scale (N = 12) depression scores (1993 mean = 36.5 SD = 11.9; 1995 mean = 16.0 SD = 10.0; t = 4.2, df = 11, p = 0.002), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (N = 12) substance abuse items (1993 mean = 1.3 SD = 1.2; 1995 mean = 0.0, SD = 0.0; t = 4.0, df = 11, p = .002), Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule depression items (1993 mean = 7.3 SD = 1.2; 1995 mean = 4.3, SD = 3.6; t = 2.7, df = 11, p = .02), and number of SCID II (N = 9) diagnoses (1993 mean = 3.6 SD = 2.5; 1995 mean = 0.7 SD = 1.0; t = 3.0, df = 8, p = .02). Results of ANOVA for main effects of baseline/follow-up, integration, and their interaction effects are presented in Table 2.

DISCUSSION

At follow-up, the overall group had improved considerably on dissociative symptoms; the average Dissociative Experiences Scale score was typical for dissociative identity disorder in 1993 but had dropped out of this range in 1995 (74). The patients showed significant improvement on substance abuse, depression and symptoms that mimic psychosis, while simultaneously reducing their number of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. Although dosage was not inquired about routinely, those who reported dosage described a reduction in dosage over the two year period. In 1995, all cases of psychotic disorder not otherwise specified, except for one, were the result of a more severe baseline psychotic diagnosis decreasing in symptom level; as a result, those patients no longer met full criteria for a specified psychotic disorder. The one exception was a case of a consistently maintained SCID diagnosis of psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.

A considerable amount of improvement among both integrated and non-integrated patients occurred in several areas. A similar decrease in the number of SCID I & II (axis I & II) and total SCID diagnoses occurred among these two groups, with the most significant improvement occurring in the number of axis I symptoms, regardless of integration status. The SCID I diagnostic categories that showed the most consistent improvement, among patients in both the preintegration and postintegration stages of progress, were the anxiety, somatic, and psychotic diagnoses. Patients with two years of treatment who integrated showed more substantial improvement on Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule secondary features of dissociative identity disorder and amnesia symptoms, with slightly more significant improvement on suicidality and on Dissociative Experiences Scale and Beck inventory scores than those who did not integrate.

Although at baseline, the integrated patients had lower Hamilton depression scale scores and fewer Dissociative Disorder Interview Schedule depression symptoms than the nonintegrated patients, the interaction effect indicates a substantially greater improvement on Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule depression symptoms among integrated patients than among non-integrated patients. The Hamilton depression scale measures a broad range of mood, somatic, sleep disorder, and other comorbid depression symptoms, while the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule depression items are congruent with APA diagnostic criteria for major depression (DSM-II-R and DSM-IV). The combined effect of integration and treatment on depressive symptoms is a major treatment benefit: depression is the most common comorbid feature in dissociative identity disorder (75).





Table 2. Symptoms at Baseline and 2-Year Follow-Up Among 54 Integrated and Nonintegrated Patients With Dissociative Identity Disorder, With Interaction Effects Between Integration and Symptom Improvement

Analysisa





Main and Interaction Effects
Mean Square
F (df=1, 52)
p





Number of current SCID-I symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
110.00
36.81
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
22.00
4.55
0.04
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
6.67
2.23
n.s.
Between-group errorc
4.83
Within group errorc
2.99
Number of Current SCID-II symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
36.64
9.75
0.003
Integrated versus nonintegrated
13.14
2.20
n.s.
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
10.04
2.67
n.s.
Between-group errorc
5.99
Within group errorc
3.76
Total number of current SCID-I and SCID-II symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
266.19
29.64
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
62.73
4.11
0.05
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
34.00
3.79
0.06
Between-group errorc
15.26
Within group errorc
8.98
Dissociative Experience Scale scores
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
11,028.82
54.80
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
2,963.17
6.23
0.02
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
1,423.17
7.07
0.01
Between-group errorc
475.32
Within group errorc
201.25
Beck Depression Inventory scores
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
3,130.31
31.75
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
2,119.01
12.33
0.001
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
490.31
4.97
0.03
Between-group errorc
171.82
Within group errorc
98.61
Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
4,896.17
41.86
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
2,240.93
21.54
0.0001
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
131.22
1.12
n.s.
Between-group errorc
104.02
Within group errorc
116.98
Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule
Somatic symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
1,107.43
32.12
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
757.21
12.33
0.0009
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
84.76
2.46
n.s.
Between-group errorc
61.41
Within group errorc
34.48
Substance Abuse items
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
17.79
27.79
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
0.01
0.01
n.s.
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
2.38
3.72
0.06
Between-group errorc
1.17
Within group errorc
0.64
Depression
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
85.24
25.92
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
35.29
9.31
0.004
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
30.57
9.30
0.004
Between-group errorc
3.79
Within group errorc
3.29
Schneiderian first-rank symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
211.13
41.65
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
88.11
8.46
0.005
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
35.91
7.08
0.01
Between-group errorc
10.42
Within group errorc
5.07
Secondary features of dissociative identity disorder
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
374.01
75.27
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
177.46
17.56
0.0001
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
136.12
27.19
0.0001
Between-group errorc
10.11
Within group errorc
4.97
Borderline symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
145.48
58.47
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
24.13
4.67
0.04
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
49.29
19.81
0.0001
Between-group errorc
5.17
Within group errorc
2.49
Extrasensory perception experiences
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
226.34
45.37
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
26.72
1.73
n.s.
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
3.52
0.71
n.s.
Between-group errorc
15.46
Within group errorc
4.99
Number of amnesia symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
110.64
37.02
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
57.56
9.21
0.004
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
41.01
13.72
0.0005
Between-group errorc
6.25
Within group errorc
2.99
Suicidality symptoms
All patients' 1993 versus 1995 symptoms
57.95
43.94
0.0001
Integrated versus nonintegrated
7.43
1.99
n.s.
Integration and 1993/1995 scoresb
6.10
4.62
0.04
Between-group errorc
3.74
Within group errorc
1.32


    aAnova for repeated measures.
    bInteraction effect between integration and time in treatment of the symtom.
    cdf=36-52.


Consistent with clinical evidence that internal voices cease following integration (66), our patients showed a significant decrease in the number of Schneiderian first rank symptoms following integration. Apparently, there is an overall decrease in Schneiderian symptoms with treatment, and integration is a contributing factor to that decrease. The average of 1.4 Schneiderian symptoms among the integrated group, however, includes pre-integration symptoms experienced during the past year, because the integrated patients consistently reported that internal voices became totally absent after integration. Therefore, further follow-up may show a more highly significant interaction and main effect due to integration.

An intriguing finding was the significant reduction in borderline symptoms, which occurred following both treatment and integration. This finding substantiates prior clinical and research observations that DID patients exhibit increased stability after integration (65, 66, 76).

We do not have information on the date of the initial diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder or on the total length of psychiatric treatment for each of the patients, therefore the full treatment response profile of dissociative identity disorder cannot be determined within the scope of this study. Because of selection criteria at baseline, 100% of the patients met criteria for DID. Our data indicate that the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder appear to be stable and correct, except among patients who reach integration, at which point the diagnosis goes into remission but is not revised retrospectively. Future research will track our patients prospectively from the time they are diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. Generally patients with dissociative identity disorder are treated with psychodynamic therapy, hypnosis, and adjunctive treatment (77), including medication and group therapy; further studies will involve systematic assessment of the specific outpatient treatment techniques used in prospectively followed cases.

The attrition rate is an important limitation of the study. Although the differences in demographic features and symptoms among participants and non-participants are minimal, our findings are preliminary and give no indication of treatment response in the non-follow-up group. Many patients could not be located despite three or more telephone calls and mail correspondence. Nonresponders could refuse participation for several reasons, ranging from lack of improvement to priority placed on therapy over participation in research. Since participants and non-participants did not differ statistically on baseline measures, with the exception of the higher prevalence of panic disorder among participants, it is possible that inclusion of non-participants might have resulted in lower symptom scores at follow-up.

Baseline characteristics such as compliance, reliability, suggestibility, and positive or negative therapeutic alliance at discharge were not directly measured in the patients, so we cannot comment on them. In future studies we will attempt to minimize the drop-out rate by more frequent contact with patients and we will monitor a broader number of variables including medications and dose. We also plan to attempt to validate the abuse allegations of patients with documented or second party corroboration. In the present study no effort was made to investigate the accuracy of reported childhood trauma. Despite the methodological limitations of the study, the findings indicate that many patients with dissociative identity disorder improve on 2-year follow-up, while those achieving integration do extremely well.

Overall, our results appear to be consistent with recent findings on other dissociative patients (64, 65; E. Smith, A. Mittelstet, unpublished data, 1995). The Dissociative Experiences Scale scores, which include items on memory problems, showed significant improvement among both integrated and non-integrated patients in 1995, with consistent recollections of childhood abuse history from 1993 to 1995. Although recollections of abuse can be prone to error (78) and inconsistency (63), our patients did not change their recollections of childhood abuse. None of our subjects recanted their earlier reports of abuse. In addition, patients who achieved integration by 1995 reported no less severe physical or sexual trauma during childhood than patients who had not yet reached integration. This suggests that a severe abuse history may not preclude a positive prognosis.

Methodological strengths of this investigation include the fact that our patient group encompasses a broad range of age and geographical areas, including many parts of the United States and Canada. The follow-up subjects are representative of the entire original patient group (N = 135), because their baseline (1993) profile did not differ on most items from those of the non-participants.

CONCLUSIONS

Our findings provide information about the treatment response of inpatients with dissociative identity disorder who were willing and able to be reassessed. Despite the limitations of the study, our findings add substance to the claims of Loewenstein (79) regarding the positive course of many correctly diagnosed dissociative identity disorder patients.

The reader should not infer from these data that integration alone directly causes symptom improvement. It is our position that the treatment process leads to recovery, with integration being a marker of more complete recovery. According to research interviews with our patients, integration occurred following substantial inpatient and outpatient therapeutic work. Much of the symptom improvement can be attributed statistically to the combined effects of treatment and integration, but integration is not a separate phenomenon clinically. Although dissociative identity disorder is a severe dissociative disorder requiring long-term treatment, one can conclude from our findings that patients with this disorder often respond very well to treatment within a reasonable period of time, given their degree of baseline comorbidity.


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Received Dec. 19, 1995; revisions received June 13 and October 28, 1996; accepted Jan. 30, 1997. From the University of Texas at Arlington and the Colin A. Ross Institute for Psychological Trauma, Richardson, Tx. Address reprint requests to Dr. Ross, 1701 Gateway, Suite 349, Richardson, Texas 75080.

The authors thank Stephanie Allred, M.S., for her assistance with statistical analysis.



Reproduced with permission. Copyright © 1997 by American Journal of Psychiatry and Colin A. Ross, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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