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A cognitive-behavioural model of depersonalisation disorder (DPD) suggests that catastrophic attributions and appraisals, and increased attention to symptoms, play important roles in the development and maintenance of the disorder. Empirical testing of this model was investigated in three groups: 25 patients with DPD, 21 patients with anxiety (obsessive-compulsive or panic disorder), and 22 psychiatrically healthy participants. Task 1 examined attributions for ambiguous symptoms. Task 2 used a questionnaire to compare the groups on the content, frequency, and conviction in appraisals when participants worried about their health. Task 3 employed four experimental manipulations designed to either increase, or decrease, attention to catastrophic appraisals and/or symptoms of DPD. Results indicate that the DPD group make less normalising attributions for symptoms (Task 1) and have more catastrophic appraisals (Task 2) than those in the Healthy Control group. The DPD and Anxiety groups were similar in their patterns of appraisals and attributions. In Task 3, the DPD group showed a perceived reduction in DPD severity when their attention was focussed on cognitively demanding tasks, whereas the other two groups showed an increase. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that these cognitive processes play an important role in the development and maintenance of DPD.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





20 - 29


Appraisals, Attention, Attributions, Cognitive processes, Depersonalisation, Adult, Attention, Case-Control Studies, Cognition, Depersonalization, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Models, Psychological, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Perception, Surveys and Questionnaires, Young Adult