Patients with depersonalization disorder have shown attenuated responses to emotional unpleasant stimuli, hence supporting the view that depersonalization is characterised by a selective inhibition on the processing of unpleasant emotions. It was the purpose of this study to establish if autonomic responses to facial emotional expressions also show the same blunting effect. The skin conductance responses (SCRs) of 16 patients with chronic DSM-IV depersonalization disorder, 15 normal controls and 15 clinical controls with DSM-IV anxiety disorders were recorded in response to facial expressions of happiness and disgust. Patients with anxiety disorders were found to have greater autonomic responses than patients with depersonalization, in spite of the fact that both groups had similarly high levels of subjective anxiety as measured by anxiety scales. SCR to happy faces did not vary across groups. The findings of this study provide further support to the idea that patients with depersonalization have a selective impairment in the processing of threatening or unpleasant emotional stimuli.
- dissociative disorders
- emotion perception