This great photo of dissociation, splitting, and plurality was found at

Scoring the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES)

This great photo of dissociation, splitting, and plurality was found at

This great photo of dissociation, splitting, and plurality was found at


I hope everyone has already recorded his or her score for the DES before reading this follow-up blog.

If you haven’t yet taken the DES, please do so before reading any further.


The Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) can be found at:


To explain the scoring of the DES, I’m going to quote some material from Dr. Colin Ross’s book “Dissociative Identity Disorder”.  This information can also be found online at .  Dr. Ross also provides a lengthy discussion about dissociation in the general population, charts, graphs, and comparative information with the DDIS, SCID-D, SCL-90, and MCMI.

The Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) is a 28-item self-report instrument that can be completed in 10 minutes, and scored in less than 5 minutes. It is easy to understand, and the questions are framed in a normative way that does not stigmatize the respondent for positive responses. A typical DES question is, “Some people have the experience of finding new things among their belongings that they do not remember buying. Mark the line to show what percentage of the time this happens to you.” The respondent then slashes the line, which is anchored at 0% on the left and 100% on the right, to show how often he or she has this experience. The DES contains a variety of dissociative experiences, many of which are normal experiences. … The DES has very good validity and reliability, and good overall psychometric properties, as reviewed by its original developers (Carlson, 1994; Carlson & Armstrong, 1994; Carlson & Putnam, 1993; Carlson et al., 1993). It has excellent construct validity, which means it is internally consistent and hangs together well, as reflected in highly significant Spearman correlations of all items with the overall DES score. The scale is derived from extensive clinical experience with an understanding of DID. In the initial studies during its development and in all subsequent studies, the DES has discriminated DID from other diagnostic groups and controls at high levels of significance, based on either group mean or group median scores. In most samples, the mean and median DES scores for DID subjects are within 5 points of each other.

…The higher the DES score, the more likely it is that the person has DID. In a sample of 1,051 clinical subjects, however, only 17% of those scoring above 30 on the DES actually had DID (Carlson et al., 1993). The DES is not a diagnostic instrument. It is a screening instrument. High scores on the DES do not prove that a person has a dissociative disorder, they only suggest that clinical assessment for dissociation is warranted. This is how we report DES scores in our consults, as within or not within the range for DID, and as consistent or not consistent with the clinical and DDIS diagnosis of DID. DID subjects sometimes have low scores, so a low score does not rule out DID. In fact, given that in most studies the average DES score for a DID patient is in the 40s, and the standard deviation about 20, roughly about 15% of clinically diagnosed DID patients score below 20 on the DES…..

The DES is the only dissociative instrument that has been subjected to a number of replication studies by independent investigators. We found in our original replication (Ross, Norton, & Anderson, 1988) that it discriminated DID from other groups very well, with scores similar to those found by Bernstein and Putnam (1986), and this pattern has persisted in all subsequent research….

The DES can predict who will not, and who may have a dissociative disorder with high accuracy. As well, the DES taps into the dissociative component of general psychopathology… The DES is not just picking out a dissociative anomaly that is unconnected to anything else.

Because of the properties of the DES, and its extensive research base, It is the best self-report instrument for measuring dissociation available….

In other words, most trauma survivors that are clinically diagnosed with DID score in the 40’s on the DES, but survivors with DID can certainly score lower than 20 and higher than 69.  Scores over 30 will indicate a high likelihood of the person having dissociative identity disorder.

Basically, the higher the score, the more likely the person has DID.  The DES is not an official diagnostic tool, but it can certainly help to screen for people with dissociative disorders.

In my personal opinion, for dissociative people, the DES score will be somewhat dependent on who in the system takes the test.  The parts that have more denial and dissociation from the rest of the system will likely score lower than others in the system that are more aware of the others inside.   Also, I would guess that the DES score might vary with the different stages of therapy and treatment.


Symptons of DID/MPD


In any which way, the DES can be very helpful in your therapy process, and I strongly encourage you to discuss your scores in detail with your therapist. Various questions may have specific personal importance for you and can provide good foundational material for processing the ways your dissociation affects your life.  The DES can give you an excellent starting place for talking about how life is for you as a dissociative person.

It can be helpful to take repeated DES tests over the course of your treatment, so you can record the changes over time.  Hopefully, your dissociative scores will decrease as you progress through your therapy process.


  • Which questions do you most relate to?
  • If you have scored higher than 60% on any question, does your therapist understand that this experience is so common for you?
  • Did you hear or sense internal arguing about how to answer any of the question
  • Were you surprised to see any of the questions?
  • Which questions asked you about dissociative experiences that you have not yet told other people that you experience?
  • Do you find the DES to be upsetting? Comforting? Frightening? Confusing? …..? (fill in the blank).__________

I wish you the best in your healing journey.




To learn more about Dissociative Identity Disorder, watch the following short, educational videos:



Copyright © 2008-2016 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation



14 comments on “Scoring the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES)

  1. Dont mean to be difficult here,but the problem with the DES first of all it is old and doesnt not necessarily reflect what we know about dissociation today ie,conversion and somatization, derealisaton, not enough questions to fully address all of those. I also question its internal validity as internal consistancy is very different than internal validity, but I would have to see P values etc to make an accurate assessment on it. Again when looking at the percentage mentioned in terms of results, is it really and truly externally valid. oh I am thinking maybe that for dissocation its fine but not necessarily for DID.
    Take a look at the Multidimensional Inventory of Dissociaton(MID)by Paul Dell, there are alot more questions and to score it is way more complicated due to validity scales and you need to software of program to do it. Anyway Dell has some interesting articles on the development of this diagnostic tool, I forget what journal I got it in, anyway I think the most important thing to remember is that any of these tools have to be used with clinical judgement etc.
    Sorry if I am coming across as argumentative, dont mean to be, I just get too excited about the science and research side of things🙂.

  2. I reckon I only score in the low thirties, if that.
    Cuz there’s times where I function just fine and don’t feel dissociative at all.
    And I don’t have all the symptoms say 30% of the time, I might have some some of the time and others not.
    Also, I have much of what I beleive is called co con and so I am not usu surprized by unknown clothes etc.
    So what am I? Who knows and who cares.
    I don’t fit in no pigeon holes.
    I just am who I am.
    And I like to be accurate, these test are not accurate.
    They fluffy and ambiguous.
    I got enuf fluff and ambiguity in this brain.

  3. rdrunner – I totally agree with you. I found the Dell MID far more informative and target specific in terms of current understanding of dissociative processing.

    The DES was developed to go along with the DSM evaluation of DID, and the DSM criteria just do not take into account alot of things that are specific to DID in its clinical presentation. I read articles somewhere on this but cant recall where, but they included alot of the controversy over the DSM having caved to academic pressure vs clinical experience.

    I must say, having taken both, that the Dell MID has helped me in alot of ways, for one thing it picks up current PTSD symptomology, and noone had realized before how much of this I do experience.

    Its validity scales are very helpful, as are the graphs which help you see how your answers compare with diagnosed DID populations, Control Populations, etc.

    I believe the Dell MID also better captures the particular and discreet aspects of how exactly I experience dissociative processing, moreso than I found the DES to. I have found its educational value far more comprehensive and useful in being able to know what I need to work on. It also got me over alot of my skepticism and confusion over what exactly I am dealing with here.

    I do think a primary flaw of the DES is its alignment with the DSM viewpoints, vs clinical manifestations and discreet presentation which just is more a hallmark of all this.

    So anyway, I entirely agree.

  4. I found the exact same dollwise, also there is a task force working on changing the diagnostic criteria for the DSM V which is do to be published I believe in 2010. I cant remember when the current DSM was put in place, but now the academic evidence is far greater to support a change that reflects a more accurate picture of dissocative disorders. I believe they experts are also calling for ptsd to be taken out of the anxiety disorders and put is dissociative disorders. However I think that the DSM reflects the views of the times, and now the scientific evidence is more abundent than ever to support DID.
    Even the experts differ in their opinions and approach depending on what theoretical framework they agree with, its interesting in that I have found a few letters or articles in various journals that they are taking digs at each other. One particular expert or researcher definately took a dig at Dell for his article on the mid and why it was accurate etc. What I liked about Dell’s study on the MID was that yes the P values and confidence interval were good and all the other stats, etc but he also highlighted the study’s shortcomings and gaps. A lot of studies will highlight theh stats that seem to reflect that the result is statistically significant, but when you look closer, you see that the Numbers needed to treat is not enough, or odds ratio or they dont even mention what the confidence interval is, or the exclusion and inclusion criteria is flawed in the sense there are confounding variables not statistically corrected for.
    What I also like about the MID, is that Dell captures the subjective experience very well.
    Through work I have access to all the reputable journals and evidence out there, and love going through all that stuff, my T thinks its good, but she said that I use it as a coping skill or to stay somewhat detached (ya so, your point is ?? :)!!!).
    Apparently my emotional IQ lags behind my intellectual IQ, and I have to trust her to apply the literature to our case (see Im brutal, I will go through a journal article she recommends I read or pull one on my own and go through and highlight and comment etc and then email it to her), she is actually so cool with all of this and to be honest very flatter when we have a conversation about MAO, serotonin etc and snaptic pruning etc,. I love the fact that it doesnt bother her that I understand this stuff and she treats me that same way…but as she said the emotional side of things I need to work on..jes ya think !🙂.

  5. I believe you are right about some people scoring differently during different stages of recovery. The first time I took this (three years ago, I believe) I scored about 50. This time I scored about 41, but I know that the percentage of my time that is spent in dissociative states is less now than it used to be. I believe that is as much because I have less stress now (as I have worked through so much trauma) and so don’t rely on the old coping mechanisms as much. I am going through some integration and awareness that I didn’t have before, but that is not what makes me score lower on this test (I believe.)

    Thanks for this

  6. Pingback: 2010 in review – from Wordpress about the Discussing Dissociation Blog « Discussing Dissociation

  7. Pingback: Emotional Abuse and Dissociation | rainbow gryphon

  8. The DES can be taken online here

    Several diagnostic tests exist for dissociative disorders (not just screening tools like the DES), including the SCID-D which must be done by a trained professional and includes observations made by the person conducting it. The Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (DDIS) and MID (Multidimensional Inventory of Dissociation) also exist and assess all dissociative disorders not just DID.
    If you are struggling with denial or finding the DES scores hard to follow then the SCID-D is more thorough and could well help clarify things for you.
    For depersonalization alone there is also a screening test developed by Dr Marlene Steinberg which can be taken on her “Stranger in the Mirror” website.

  9. The DSM5 – Paul Dell’s excellent paper A new model of DID gives alternative criteria which can be extremely helpful and really puts the focus on dissociative symptoms in general rather than emphasizing the identity alteration of DID. It’s linked to from the bottom of this page – skip to around page 10 to see his proposed criteria

    The DSM5 made minor changes to the DID criteria (from what I remember I think they were being able to self-report symptoms or have others report them rather than have them observed by a professional (as with any other mental health diagnosis) and the other key change was clarifying that amnesia could be for present or past experiences (or both) which made it clearer that people with co-consciousness are not excluded from a DID diagnosis (co-consciousness of course is part the process of healing from DID).
    Thanks for the blog Kathy.

  10. Reblogged this on Trauma and Dissociation and commented:
    If you dissociate often then have you used the Dissociative Experiences Scale screening tool to check for whether a dissociative disorder is likely?

    This post contains information about diagnosing dissociative disorders and explains what the scoring of the DES means.
    Take the DES first here:

    An additional screening tool for Derealization only is on Dr Marlene Steinberg’s excellent website

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s