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The role of mental illness in violent crime is elusive, and there are harmful stereotypes that mentally ill people are frequently violent criminals. Studies find greater psychopathology among violent offenders, especially convicted homicide offenders, and higher rates of violence perpetration and victimization among those with mental illness. Emotion dysregulation may be one way in which mental illness contributes to violent and/or criminal behavior. Although there are many stereotyped portrayals of individuals with dissociative disorders (DDs) being violent, the link between DDs and crime is rarely researched. We reviewed the extant literature on DDs and violence and found it is limited to case study reviews. The present study addresses this gap through assessing 6-month criminal justice involvement among 173 individuals with DDs currently in treatment. We investigated whether their criminal behavior is predicted by patient self-reported dissociative, posttraumatic stress disorder and emotion dysregulation symptoms, as well as clinician-reprted depressive disorders and substance use disorder. Past 6 month criminal justice involvement was notably low: 13% of the patients reported general police contact and 5% reported involvement in a court case, although either of these could have involved the DD individual as a witness, victim or criminal. Only 3.6% were recent criminal witnesses, 3% reported having been charged with an offense, 1.8% were fined, and 0.6% were incarcerated in the past 6 months. No convictions or probations in the prior 6 months were reported. None of the symptoms reliably predicted recent criminal behavior. In a representative sample of individuals with DDs, recent criminal justice involvement was low, and symptomatology did not predict criminality. We discuss the implications of these findings and future directions for research.


Aliya R Webermann, Bethany L Brand. Mental illness and violent behavior: the role of dissociation. Borderline personality disorder and emotion dysregulation. 2017;4:2

PMID: 28138388

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