This study examined whether peritraumatic dissociation serves to protect trauma-exposed individuals from experiencing high levels of peritraumatic distress or is an epiphenomenon of high levels of peritraumatic distress. The sample was comprised of 709 police officers and 317 peer-nominated civilians exposed to a variety of critical incidents. Participants filled out measures of trauma exposure, traumatic stress, peritraumatic distress, and peritraumatic dissociation. There was an overall moderate-to-strong linear relationship between peritraumatic distress and dissociation. Among those with high levels of dissociation, very few reported low levels of distress. Among those with high levels of distress, a significant number--but not all--reported high levels of dissociation. Our results do not provide support for the idea that dissociation protects individuals from experiencing high levels of distress at the time of the trauma but rather suggest that dissociation is an epiphenomenon of high levels of distress observed in a subset of individuals.