Dissociation as Post-Traumatic Response

This presentation discusses the neurobiology of dissociation as a post-traumatic response and its relationship to autonomic nervous system (ANS) function, including the underlying physiological mechanisms and defense cascade in response to stressors. Animal models including fight, flight, freezing and tonic mobility, including the involvement of endogenous opioid activation in these states are explored.

The application to human posttraumatic states is discussed, as well as psychological phenomena of dissociation as a response to early trauma, including altered states of consciousness and formation of dissociated self-states, e.g. "compartmentalizing" and/or structural dissociation. Evidence from brain imaging is presented that supports functional brain changes as it relates to dissociative states.

Participants will learn about the underlying neurobiology of dissociation and how it relates to the defense cascade in animals and humans. Thy will learn about the phenomenology of dissociation and how it relates to early childhood trauma and attachment history. Finally, participants will learn about the the importance of recognizing dissociative signs and symptoms and how this relates to providing effective patient treatment.

This session was originally presented as a live conference session in March 2019.

Target Audience


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this session participants will be able to:

  • Describe at least four states in the defense cascade
  • State one hypothesis about the role of endogenous opioid activation in dissociative responses
  • Describe one or more type(s) of altered states of consciousness that arise as a response to trauma
  • Describe three features of dissociated self-states
  • State one reason it is important to recognize dissociative signs and symptoms in order to provide effective patient treatment
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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Presenter: Ulrich Lanius
Presenter Bio: Dr. Ulrich F. Lanius is a Registered Psychologist in West Vancouver, BC with a practice in Clinical and Neuropsychology. He has a particular interest in the effects of attachment and trauma, as well as brain-behaviour relationships in general. Dr. Lanius specializes in the treatment of trauma, dissociation and attachment. Working from a client-centered perspective, he integrates mindfulness-based approaches with EMDR, body-focused therapy and ego-state interventions. In addition he utilizes neurotherapy with a particular focus on LENS neurofeedback. He also has a special interest in the use of opioid antagonists including naltrexone and low dose naltrexone (LDN) and their effects on dissociative symptoms and alterations in consciousness. Dr. Lanius has presented both in North America, as well as internationally. He has written a number of articles and book chapters on both the treatment and the neurobiology of traumatic stress syndromes with a particular focus on dissociation. He also co-authored The Neurobiology and Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation: Toward an Embodied Self.

Available Credit

  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


ISSTD Member cost:
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"Your Price" above reflects your final price based on your membership status and career level. 

  • ISSTD defines a student as those enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree or certification in the mental health field and who have an interest in trauma and dissociation. 
  • ISSTD defines an emerging professional as mental health professionals who have completed an advanced degree and are in the first three years of their career (or first three years after graduation for researchers).
  • If you do not fall into one of the above categories please register as Professional/Retired. 

These prices are for Tier I countries. For a list of countries by Tier click here. If you are located in a country that falls into Tier II-VI please contact ISSTD at cfas@isst-d.org to receive the appropriate discount code.