Dissociation and psychopathology in Kenyan survivors of a terrorist bombing

BACKGROUND: Dissociation is a serious psychological condition that is characterized as a pathological outcome of trauma-related experience. Thus, dissociation could be expected to develop in survivors of disaster trauma and to be associated with trauma exposure and psychopathology.

METHODS: A sample of 278 disaster-affected Kenyans was assessed 8 to 10 months after the 1998 terrorist bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi for a study of trauma-related psychopathology and dissociation in the context of personality and culture. Instruments of assessment were the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, the Dissociative Experiences Scale, and the Temperament and Character Inventory.

RESULTS: Dissociation appeared to represent a largely nonpathological response to the disaster experience that reflected personality variables and a cultural context.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that dissociation encountered in disaster-exposed groups in this cultural setting does not necessarily represent psychopathology, but attention to dissociative responses might help clinicians identify and provide interventions for individuals experiencing distressing intrusive and hyperarousal symptoms.

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