Dissociation and emotion regulation strategies: A meta-analytic review

Marco Cavicchioli, Andrea Scalabrini, Georg Northoff, Clara Mucci, Anna Ogliari, Cesare Maffei

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Clinical and neurobiological models posited that dissociative mechanisms might affect processes involved in emotional generation and regulation. However, there is a lack of a comprehensive theoretical framework that systematically includes dissociation within emotional functioning. Methods: The current study aims at conducting a meta-analytic review on the relationship between dissociation and emotion regulation in order to empirically estimate to what extent dissociation is related to emotion regulation processes. The meta-analysis was based on r coefficient as effect size measure, using a random-effect approach. Results: The meta-analysis included 57 independent studies for a total of 11596 individuals. Findings showed an overall moderate relationship between dissociation and emotion regulation (rw = .32; p < .05). The association between dissociation and emotion regulation was the same among clinical samples than non-clinical ones. Furthermore, dissociation showed moderate to large relationships with maladaptive domains of emotion regulation, namely disengagement (rw = 0.34; p < .01) (i.e., behavioral avoidance, experiential avoidance, thought and emotional suppression) and aversive cognitive perseveration (rw = 0.38; p < .001) (i.e., rumination, worry and nonacceptance). The analysis did not find significant relationship between dissociation and adaptive domain of emotional regulation (i.e., problem solving, mindfulness). Conclusion: Dissociation in the context of emotion regulation might be viewed as a basic neuro-mental mechanism that automatically contribute to the over-modulation of emotional states through avoidance reactions from internal and external reality. Future longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the causal relationships between dissociation and emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-387
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Automatic processes
  • Aversive cognitive perseveration
  • Disengagement
  • Dissociation
  • Emotion regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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