Dissociative Experiences Scale

Purpose:  Designed to help identify patients with dissociative psychopathology and as a research tool to  quantify dissociative experiences.

Population:  Late adolescence to adult

Score:  Total score only

Time:  10 minutes

Author:  Eve Bernstein Carlson, Frank W. Putnam

Publisher:  Eve Bernstein Carlson Department of Psychology Beloit College

Description:  The Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) is a brief self-report questionnaire designed to identify patients with dissociative psychopathology and to provide a means of quantifying dissociative experiences. Content for the scale's 28 items was garnered from extensive interviews with dissociative patients and from consultations with clinical experts. The scale taps a broad range of dissociative experiences including disturbances in memory, identity, and cognition, and feelings of derealization, depersonalization, absorption, and imaginative involvement.  The DES comes in two forms: the original DES and the DES II. Both versions use the same items, but they differ in their item formats.

Scoring: The DES in its original format uses a visual analogue scale that requires examinees to mark their responses along a numerically anchored 100-millimeter line. Item responses range from 0%, "This never happens to you," to 100%, "This always happens to you." The DES II uses a more convenient 11-point Likert scale. Total scores are obtained by averaging the 28 item scores. 

Reliability: Reliability findings from six studies are reported in the manual. The weighted means of the test-retest and internal consistency reliabilities from these studies are .85 and .93, respectively. These figures indicate that the DES yields reliable scores in many assessment contexts.

Validity: The primary validation studies with the DES feature Spearman rank-order correlations of the instrument with age and socioeconomic status. Item-total correlations also use this statistic. The manual is a compendium of psychometrically informative text and tables that should be consulted by potential users of the scale. It contains useful information on norms, reliability, validity, structure (via factor analysis), and use of cutoff scores for classification.

Norms: Norms are presented for both clinical and nonclinical samples including subgroups with anxiety disorder, affective disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, dissociative disorders, and multiple personality. Scale means or medians are reported for each diagnostic group.   

Suggested use: The DES is useful as a screening test for major dissociative psychopathology, and will serve as a useful research tool.