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  Many of the following characteristics are commonly experienced by both Complex Post Traumatic Stress & Dissociative clients alike.

The Dissociative Estimation Survey (DES) Putnam & Bernstein is also a very useful descriptive tool in understanding dissociative characteristics.

  1. History of childhood trauma, especially prolonged severe sexual and/or physical abuse starting in early childhood.
  2. Presence of symptoms indicative of childhood abuse even when there is no conscious memory of abuse. (See E. Sue Blume’s ‘Incest Survivors After-effects Checklist’)

  3. Amnesia for large periods of childhood and sometimes adulthood.
  4. Blackouts or time loss: suddenly finding oneself someplace without knowing how one got there; the sense that time has passed very quickly although there may not be any awareness of having been ‘absent’.
  5. Switching: alternate parts of the psyche taking executive control of one’s body.  This may or may not involve loss of continuous memory.
  6. Talking, crying or acting like a young child, baby or otherwise ‘unlike’ oneself, but not in a conscious or premeditated way.
  7. Distinctly different handwritings, art styles or speaking voices.
  8. Finding writing or art work that one doesn’t remember creating.
  9. Hearing voices (or thoughts), usually coming within one’s own head (may differ from one’s one age, accent, speech patterns, which are lucid (no evidence of thought disorder) and which can be conversed with.
  10. Feeling that one is not alone, or not in control of  one’s body.
  11. Objects in one’s possession are not remembered, or things disappear without explanation.
  12. Varying ability to perform familiar tasks.
  13. Varying ability to access or remember certain information, esp. details.
  14. Frequent experience of jamais vu, i.e., the familiar (places, people, experiences, etc.) feeling unfamiliar. (opposite of déjà vu).
  15. Not recognizing oneself in the mirror.
  16. Frequent feelings of depersonalisation.
  17. Presence of fears, depression, anger, laughter, or other strong emotions for which one does not understand the origin.
  18. Body pains or other physical symptoms for which there is no known physiological or emotional cause.
  19. Lack of pain when there is a physiological reason for it.
  20. Inexplicable headaches.
  21. Thoughts, feelings or knowledge that seem to belong to someone else.
  22. Radical changes in affect, opinion or attitude in same or similar situations.
  23. Speaking of oneself in the third person.
  24. People saying one has done or said things that one doesn’t remember doing, especially things that are out of character.
  25. Calling oneself by a different name.
  26. Constantly losing one’s train of thought, or changing the subject during conversations.
  27. Asking the same question over and over again, despite getting an answer, without being aware of doing it.
  28. Difficulty remembering sequence of events.
  29. Inability to see, hear or read and remember something that is there.
  30. Forgetting or not hearing much of what happens during a difficult or emotionally laden experience such as a therapy session, family event or during sex.
  31. Sense of ‘fading in and out’ while listening to emotionally difficult material, or sense of pressure in forehead – as if many consciousnesses are listening at once.
  32. Unusual creative ability, especially where things come out in finished form without any conscious thought.
  33. 'Intuitively’ knowing the solutions to problems in situations where intuition would not normally solve the problem, e.g. a maths problem.
  34. Unusual psychic or paranormal abilities.

(Adapted from: Laura Veron, Joy Kallio, & Abby Wilcox, 1990)


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"Yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision,
but today well lived - makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope"
old Sanskrit proverb.