Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale

Explore the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale, a tool for assessing dissociation in just a few items. Understand its significance and application.

By Joshua Napilay on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by Katherine Ellison.

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What is the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES-B)?

The Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES-B) is a shortened version of the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), which is a widely used self-report measure designed to assess dissociative experiences. Dissociative experiences refer to a disruption in the standard integration of consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, body representation, motor control, and behavior. These experiences can be indicative of dissociative disorders, such as dissociative identity disorder (DID) or borderline personality disorder (BPD), as well as other psychiatric disorders and conditions.

The DES-B is a structured clinical interview specifically tailored to assess moderately severe types of dissociative symptoms in both clinical and community samples. It is a screening tool used in psychiatric care, clinical interviews, and research settings to identify individuals who may be experiencing trauma-related dissociation or other dissociative symptoms. The DES-B consists of a set of brief questions that participants answer to provide information about their dissociative experiences.

The psychometric properties of the DES-B indicate strong reliability and validity, making it a valuable tool for measuring dissociation across diverse clinical and non-clinical populations. Analyses have revealed a robust factor structure and measurement invariance across ethnoracial groups, indicating its applicability in assessing dissociative and depressive symptoms in racially diverse clinical populations.

The total score on the DES-B is derived from summing up the individual item scores, providing an overall score that serves as an indicator of dissociative experiences. Percentile ranks can be calculated to compare an individual's score to those of a normative sample.

Printable Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale PDF

Download this Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale to help assess dissociative experiences.

How is the DES-B different from other dissociation scales?

The Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale differs from other dissociation scales in several key aspects:

  • Briefness: As its name suggests, the DES-B is a brief version of the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES). It consists of a smaller number of items compared to the full DES, making it quicker and easier to administer. This is advantageous in situations where time is limited, such as in clinical settings or large-scale research studies.
  • Focus on moderately severe types of dissociative symptoms: The DES-B is specifically designed to assess moderately severe types of dissociative symptoms. It targets experiences that are indicative of clinically significant dissociation, making it particularly useful in clinical populations where dissociative disorders are a concern.
  • Screening tool: The DES-B serves primarily as a screening tool for dissociative experiences. It is often used to identify individuals who may be experiencing trauma-related dissociation or other dissociative symptoms, prompting further evaluation and assessment for dissociative disorders or other psychiatric conditions.
  • Psychometric properties: The DES-B has been shown to possess strong reliability and validity across diverse clinical and non-clinical populations. Its psychometric properties make it a robust tool for measuring dissociation and assessing its prevalence and severity in various contexts.
  • Applicability across ethnoracial groups: Research has demonstrated that the DES-B exhibits measurement invariance across different ethnoracial groups, indicating its relevance and reliability in assessing dissociative experiences in racially diverse clinical populations.

Types of dissociative experiences DES-B measures

DES-B measures various types of dissociative experiences across multiple content domains. These include:

  • Disruptions in consciousness: This domain assesses experiences related to alterations in consciousness, such as feeling detached from one's surroundings, experiencing time distortion, or feeling like one is in a dream-like state.
  • Memory disturbances: The DES-B evaluates experiences involving memory disruptions, such as gaps in memory, amnesia for specific events or periods, or feeling like memories are not one's own.
  • Identity alterations: This domain measures experiences related to disruptions in identity, including feeling like one has multiple selves or identities, experiencing shifts in identity or sense of self, or feeling disconnected from one's own identity.
  • Emotional detachment: The DES-B assesses experiences of emotional detachment or numbing, such as feeling emotionally disconnected from oneself or others, experiencing a lack of emotional response to events, or feeling like emotions are distant or unreal.
  • Perceptual distortions: This domain evaluates perceptual disturbances, including experiences of derealization (feeling like the world is unreal or strange), depersonalization (feeling disconnected from one's body or sensations), or alterations in sensory experiences.
  • Body representation: The DES-B measures experiences related to disruptions in body representation, such as feeling like one's body does not belong to oneself, experiencing changes in body image or size perception, or feeling like body parts are distorted or unreal.
  • Motor control: This domain assesses experiences involving disruptions in motor control or movement, such as feeling like one's movements are not under one's control, experiencing involuntary movements, or feeling like one is watching oneself from outside of one's body.
  • Behavioral changes: The DES-B evaluates behavioral changes associated with dissociation, such as engaging in activities without awareness or memory, experiencing changes in behavior that are uncharacteristic or unexpected, or feeling like one is observing oneself from a distance.

Everyday triggers for dissociative experiences assessed by the DES-B

The Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES-B) assesses everyday situations or triggers for dissociative experiences. While the DES-B primarily focuses on measuring dissociative experiences rather than specific triggers, it is understood that various situations or events can trigger dissociative experiences.

Some everyday situations or triggers for dissociative experiences and mental disorders that may be indirectly assessed by the DES-B include:

  • Stressful situations: High levels of stress or overwhelming situations can trigger dissociative experiences. These may include academic or work-related stress, financial difficulties, relationship problems, or significant life changes.
  • Emotional overload: Intense emotions or emotional overload can lead to dissociative experiences as a coping mechanism. Situations such as experiencing intense fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, or shame may trigger dissociation. The DES-B may indirectly assess dissociative responses to emotional overload by measuring emotional detachment or numbing.
  • Reminders of past trauma: Reminders or cues associated with past traumatic experiences can trigger dissociative responses. These reminders may include specific sights, sounds, smells, or other sensory stimuli that evoke memories of the traumatic event.
  • Conflict or threatening situations: Interpersonal conflict, threats to one's safety or well-being, or experiences of betrayal or abandonment can trigger dissociative responses. Situations such as arguments, confrontations, or feeling unsafe may lead to dissociation as a way to cope with perceived danger.

How to use the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale

Using the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES-B) involves several steps to ensure accurate administration and interpretation of the results:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the scale: Review the DES-B and familiarize yourself with its items, response options, and scoring procedure. Ensure you understand the purpose of the scale and the types of dissociative experiences it assesses.
  2. Select the appropriate administration setting: Determine the proper setting for administering the DES-B. This could be in a clinical setting, research environment, or community outreach program. Ensure that the environment is conducive to privacy and confidentiality.
  3. Obtain informed consent: If administering the DES-B as part of research or clinical assessment, obtain informed consent from participants. Provide information about the purpose of the scale, how their responses will be used, and assure them of confidentiality.
  4. Administer the scale: Present the DES-B to the participant and provide clear instructions for completing it. Emphasize the importance of providing honest and accurate responses.
  5. Score the responses: Once the participant has completed the DES-B, score their reactions according to the scoring instructions provided with the scale. Calculate the total score by summing the individual item scores.
  6. Interpret the results: Interpret the participant's total score on the DES-B. Higher scores indicate a greater severity of dissociative experiences. If available, compare the participant's score to established norms or cutoff scores to determine the presence or severity of dissociative symptoms.
  7. Consider follow-up assessment: Depending on the context in which the DES-B was administered, consider conducting follow-up assessments or additional evaluations to explore any significant dissociative symptoms identified.
  8. Provide feedback and support: If administering the DES-B in a clinical setting, provide feedback to the participant about their results in a sensitive and supportive manner. Offer appropriate referrals for further evaluation or treatment if warranted.
  9. Document findings: Document the participant's responses, scores, and any additional notes or observations for future reference. Ensure that all documentation adheres to ethical and confidentiality guidelines.
  10. Monitor progress: If administering the DES-B longitudinally or as part of ongoing treatment, monitor the participant's progress over time to assess changes in dissociative symptoms and response to interventions.

Implications of high scores on the DES-B

The DES-B (Dissociative Experiences Scale - Brief) is a psychological assessment tool used to measure dissociative experiences. Dissociation refers to a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity.

Here are some implications of high scores on the DES-B:

  • Potential psychological distress: DES-B scores may indicate psychological distress like anxiety, depression, PTSD, or trauma-related disorders. Dissociation is a coping mechanism to deal with stress or trauma.
  • Impact on functioning: Dissociative experiences can affect daily functioning, memory, concentration, emotions, and relationships. High DES-B scores may suggest difficulties with focus, presence, and forming connections.
  • Risk of dissociative disorders: While dissociation is a normal response to stress, chronic and severe dissociative experiences can be indicative of dissociative disorders such as dissociative identity disorder (DID), dissociative amnesia, or depersonalization/derealization disorder. High scores on the DES-B may warrant further assessment to determine if a dissociative disorder is present.
  • Treatment considerations: High DES-B scores may require counseling or psychotherapy to address trauma, improve coping skills, and integrate dissociated experiences. Treatment methods may include CBT, DBT, EMDR, or other trauma-informed approaches.

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What is the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale?
What is the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale?

Commonly asked questions

What is the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale?

The Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES-B) is a shortened version of the Dissociative Experiences Scale used to measure dissociative experiences.

How do you interpret the DES scale?

The DES scale is interpreted by summing up individual item scores to get a total score, indicating the severity of dissociative experiences. Higher scores suggest more severe dissociation.

What is considered a high DES score?

A high DES score typically indicates a greater severity of dissociative experiences. Exact cutoffs for high scores may vary depending on the population and context, but generally, scores above a certain percentile (e.g., 75th percentile) are considered high.

What is a-DES assessment?

An a-DES assessment refers to an assessment using the Brief Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES-B), a shortened version of the Dissociative Experiences Scale used to measure dissociative experiences.

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