Are You “In the Zone” Or “Disconnected”?

An Investigation of Flow, Dissociative Absorption and Their Adaptive and Maladaptive Correlates




dissociation, absorption, flow, self-efficacy, immersion, psychopathology, well-being


Objective: The terms dissociative absorption and flow describe tendencies to experience immersive consciousness states, yet dissociation is sometimes considered maladaptive whereas flow is typically considered to be adaptive. We explored their trait and state associations with psychopathology, game task performance, and mood, and examined the hypothesized moderation effect of self-efficacy. Method: In the present study, 303 undergraduates completed trait questionnaires and 63 high/low absorbers reported their state before and after an immersive task (“Tetris”). Task performance was also assessed. Results: We found that flow was distinguishable from dissociation but was inconsistent; two of its components (“transformation of time” (ToT) and “merging of action and awareness” (MoAA)) were positively associated with dissociation and psychopathology, and, unlike other flow components, were unrelated to enhanced task performance. Although the trait associations of ToT and MoAA with psychopathology were not dependent on self-efficacy levels, trait dissociation was more strongly related to psychopathology under low self-efficacy. In the state phase, state immersion (both ToT and dissociative absorption) was associated with mood improvement, especially under low self-efficacy. Conclusion: Our results prompt us to question the validity of flow as a cohesive construct, as measured by the Dispositional Flow Scale-2. Immersive experiences, including ToT and dissociative absorption, led to short-term mood improvement in the state phase but, considering their trait associations with psychopathology, engaging in them excessively may be maladaptive in the long term. 


Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Sage.

Allen, J. G., Fultz, J., Huntoon, J., & Brethour, J. R., Jr. (2002). Pathological dissociative taxon membership, absorption and reported childhood trauma in women with trauma-related disorders. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 3(1), 89-110.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) (5th ed.). APA.

Asakawa, K. (2010). Flow experience, culture, and well-being: How do autotelic Japanese college students feel, behave, and think in their daily lives? Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(2), 205-223. DOI: 10.1007/s10902-008-9132-3

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.ژ

Benight, C. C., & Bandura, A. (2004). Social cognitive theory of posttraumatic recovery: The role of perceived self-efficacy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42(10), 1129-1148. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2003.08.008

Benight, C. C., Flores, J., & Tashiro, T. (2001). Bereavement coping self-efficacy in cancer widows. Death Studies, 25(2), 97–125. DOI: 10.1080/07481180125921

Benight, C. C., & Harper, M. (2002). Coping self-efficacy as a mediator for distress following multiple natural disasters. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15(3), 177–186. doi: 10.1023/A:1015295025950

Boysan, M., Goldsmith, R. E., Cavus, H., Kayri, M., & Keskin, S. (2009). Relations among anxiety, depression, and dissociative symptoms: The influence of abuse subtype. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 10(1), 83-101.

Bregman-Hai, N., Abitbul-Gordon, S., Deutsch, I., Garbi, D., Shelef, L., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2018). Leave everything to the imagination: Cognitive functioning of individuals high in dissociative absorption and imaginative involvement. Journal of Research in Personality, 76, 129-138.

Bregman-Hai, N., Kessler, Y., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2020). Who wrote that? Automaticity and reduced sense of agency in individuals prone to dissociative absorption. Consciousness & Cognition, 78, 102861. DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2019.102861

Briere, J., Scott, C., & Weathers, F. (2005). Peritraumatic and persistent dissociation in the presumed etiology of PTSD. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(12), 2295-2301.ژ doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.162.12.2295

Buchnik-Daniely, Y., Vannikov-Lugassi, M., Shalev, H., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2021). The path to dissociative experiences: A direct comparison of different etiological models. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 28(5), 1091-1102.

Butler, L. D. (2004). The dissociations of everyday life. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 5(2), 1-11.

Butler, L. D. (2006). Normative dissociation. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 29(1), 45-62.ژ

Cardeña, E. (1997). The etiologies of dissociation. In S. Krippner & S. M. Powers (Eds.), Broken images, broken selves: Dissociative narratives in clinical practice (pp. 61–87). Brunner/Mazel.

Carleton, R. N., Abrams, M. P., & Asmundson, G. J. (2010). The attentional resource allocation scale (ARAS): Psychometric properties of a composite measure for dissociation and absorption. Depression and Anxiety, 27(8), 775–786. doi: 10.1002/da.20656

Carlson, E. B., & Putnam, F. W. (1993). An update on the dissociative experiences scale. Dissociation, 6(1), 16-27.

Chiu, C. De, Yeh, Y. Y., Huang, Y. M., Wu, Y. C., & Chiu, Y. C. (2009). The set switching function of nonclinical dissociators under negative emotion. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118(1), 214–222.

Comrey, A. L., & Lee, H. B. (1992). A first course in factor analysis. (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., Abuhamdeh, S., & Nakamura, J. (2014). Flow. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 227-238). Springer.

Dalenberg, C. J., Brand, B. L., Gleaves, D. H., Dorahy, M. J., Loewenstein, R. J., Cardeña, E., . . . Spiegel, D. (2012). Evaluation of the evidence for the trauma and fantasy models of dissociation. Psychological Bulletin, 138(3), 550-588. DOI: 10.1037/a0027447

Dalenberg, C. J., & Paulson, K. (2009). The case for the study of “normal” dissociation processes. In P. F. Dell & J. A. O’Neil (Eds.), Dissociation and the dissociative disorders: DSM–V and beyond (pp. 145–155). Routledge.

Derogatis, L. R., & Melisaratos, N. (1983). The brief symptom inventory: an introductory report. Psychological Medicine, 13(3), 595-605.ژ

Engeser, S., & Rheinberg, F. (2008). Flow, performance and moderators of challenge-skill balance. Motivation and Emotion, 32(3), 158-172.

Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A.-G. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods, 41(4), 1149-1160.

Ford, J. D., & Gómez, J. M. (2015). The relationship of psychological trauma and dissociative and posttraumatic stress disorders to nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidality: A review. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 16(3), 232-271. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2015.989563

Giesbrecht, T., Geraerts, E., & Merckelbach, H. (2007). Dissociation, memory commission errors, and heightened autonomic reactivity. Psychiatry Research, 150(3), 277–285.

Gignac, G. E., & Szodorai, E. T. (2016). Effect size guidelines for individual differences researchers. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 74-78.

Gilbar, O., & Ben-Zur, H. (2002). Adult Israeli community norms for the brief symptom inventory (BSI). International Journal of Stress Management, 9, 1-10.ژ

Humpston, C. S., Walsh, E., Oakley, D. A., Mehta, M. A., Bell, V., & Deeley, Q. (2016). The relationship between different types of dissociation and psychosis-like experiences in a non-clinical sample. Consciousness and Cognition, 41, 83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2016.02.009

Jackson, S. A., & Eklund, R. C. (2002). Assessing flow in physical activity: The flow state scale-2 and dispositional flow scale-2. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 24(2), 133-150. DOI: 10.1123/JSEP.24.2.133

Jackson, S. A., & Marsh, H. W. (1996). Development and validation of a scale to measure optimal experience: The flow state scale. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 18(1), 17-35.ژ

Jennett, C., Cox, A. L., Cairns, P., Dhoparee, S., Epps, A., Tijs, T., & Walton, A. (2008). Measuring and defining the experience of immersion in games. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 66(9), 641-661.

Keller, J., & Bless, H. (2008). Flow and regulatory compatibility: An experimental approach to the flow model of intrinsic motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(2), 196-209.

Kihlstrom, J. F. (2005). Dissociative disorders. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 227-253.ژ

Kraft, C. A., Lumley, M. A., D'Souza, P. J., & Dooley, J. A. (2008). Emotional approach coping and self-efficacy moderate the effects of written emotional disclosure and relaxation training for people with migraine headaches. British Journal of Health Psychology, 13(1), 67-71. doi: 10.1348/135910707X251144

Levin, R., & Spei, E. (2004). Relationship of purported measures of pathological and nonpathological dissociation to self-reported psychological distress and fantasy immersion. Assessment, 11(2), 160-168. DOI: 10.1177/1073191103256377

Lindstedt, J. K., & Gray, W. D. (2015). Meta-T: TetrisⓇ as an experimental paradigm for cognitive skills research. Behavior Research Methods, 47(4), 945-965.

Marin, M. M., & Bhattacharya, J. (2013). Getting into the musical zone: trait emotional intelligence and amount of practice predict flow in pianists. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(53).

Mesurado, B., Cristina Richaud, M., & José Mateo, N. (2016). Engagement, flow, self-efficacy, and Eustress of University Students: a cross-national comparison between the Philippines and Argentina. The Journal of Psychology, 150(3), 281-299.ژ DOI: 10.1080/00223980.2015.1024595

Michailidis, L., Balaguer-Ballester, E., & He, X. (2018). Flow and immersion in video games: The aftermath of a conceptual challenge. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1682. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01682

Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). The concept of flow. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 239-263). Springer.

Partington, S., Partington, E., & Olivier, S. (2009). The dark side of flow: A qualitative study of dependence in big wave surfing. The Sport Psychologist, 23(2), 170-185.

Rosenbaum, M. (1980). A schedule for assessing self-control behaviors: Preliminary findings. Behavior Therapy, 11(1), 109-121.ژ

Sahoo, F. M. (2015). Flow experience and workplace well-being. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 41(2), 189-198.

Salanova, M., Bakker, A. B., & Llorens, S. (2006). Flow at work: Evidence for an upward spiral of personal and organizational resources. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(1), 1-22. Doi: 10.1007/s10902-005-8854-8

Schüler, J., & Nakamura, J. (2013). Does flow experience lead to risk? How and for whom. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 5(3), 311-331.

Soffer-Dudek, N. (2014). Dissociation and dissociative mechanisms in panic disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and depression: A review and heuristic framework. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1(3), 243-270.

Soffer-Dudek, N. (2017). Daily elevations in dissociative absorption and depersonalization in a nonclinical sample are related to daily stress and psychopathological symptoms. Psychiatry, 80(3), 265-278. DOI: 10.1080/00332747.2016.1247622

Soffer‐Dudek, N. (2019). Dissociative absorption, mind‐wandering, and attention‐deficit symptoms: Associations with obsessive‐compulsive symptoms. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(1), 51-69. doi: 10.1111/bjc.12186

Soffer-Dudek, N., Lassri, D., Soffer-Dudek, N., & Shahar, G. (2015). Dissociative absorption: An empirically unique, clinically relevant, dissociative factor. Consciousness and Cognition, 36, 338-351.

Soffer-Dudek, N., & Somer, E. (2023) Maladaptive daydreaming is a dissociative disorder: Supporting evidence and theory. In M. J. Dorahy, S. N. Gold, & J. A. O’Neill (Eds.), Dissociation and the dissociative disorders: Past, present, future (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Somer, E., Dolgin, M., & Saadon, M. (2001). Validation of the Hebrew version of the Dissociative Experiences Scale (H-DES) in Israel. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 2(2), 53-65.

Somer, E., Soffer-Dudek, N., Ross, C. A., & Halpern, N. (2017). Maladaptive daydreaming: Proposed diagnostic criteria and their assessment with a structured clinical doi: 10.1037/cns0000114

Tellegen, A., & Atkinson, G. (1974). Openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences ("absorption"), a trait related to hypnotic susceptibility. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83(3), 268-277.

Thomson, P., & Jaque, S. V. (2012). Dancing with the muses: Dissociation and flow. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 13(4), 478-489.ژ

Thomson, P., & Jaque, S. V. (2018). Childhood adversity and the creative experience in adult professional performing artists. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(111). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00111

Thomson, P., & Jaque, V. (2021). Multifaceted self-consciousness: Depersonalization, shame, flow, and creativity in performing artists. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 8(4), 335-345.

Van Der Hart, O., Nijenhuis, E., Steele, K., & Brown, D. (2004). Trauma-related dissociation: Conceptual clarity lost and found. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38(11-12), 906-914. Doi: 10.1080/j.1440-1614.2004.01480.x

Waller, N., Putnam, F. W., & Carlson, E. B. (1996). Types of dissociation and dissociative types: A taxometric analysis of dissociative experiences. Psychological Methods, 1(3), 300-321.

Wanner, B., Ladouceur, R., Auclair, A. V., & Vitaro, F. (2006). Flow and dissociation: Examination of mean levels, cross-links, and links to emotional well-being across sports and recreational and pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(3), 289-304. Doi: 10.1007/s10899-006-9017-5Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063-1070. DOI: 10.1037//0022-3514.54.6.1063

Weibel, D., & Wissmath, B. (2011). Immersion in computer games: The role of spatial presence and flow. International Journal of Computer Games Technology, 82345. Doi: 10.1155/2011/282345

Whitson, C., & Consoli, J. (2009). Flow theory and student engagement. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 2(1), 40-49.




How to Cite

Zadik, M., Bregman-Hai, N., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2022). Are You “In the Zone” Or “Disconnected”? : An Investigation of Flow, Dissociative Absorption and Their Adaptive and Maladaptive Correlates. Journal of Anomalous Experience and Cognition, 2(2), 316–361.



Research articles