What Dissociation Feels Like

Dissociation is the feeling of being disconnected from reality, yourself, or your surroundings. It can occur in response to traumatic events such as abuse, accidents, illness, or other stressful situations. Dissociation can range from mild and occasional to severe and chronic, and can be a complex and distressing experience.

Symptoms of Dissociation

The symptoms of dissociation vary from person to person and can include:

  • Feeling disconnected or detached from yourself
  • Feeling disconnected or detached from your surroundings
  • Feeling like you are watching yourself from a distance
  • Feeling like your body is not your own
  • Feeling like time is speeding up or slowing down
  • Feeling like the world is unreal or dreamlike
  • Experiencing memory gaps or blackouts
  • Feeling like you are in a fog or daze
  • Feeling numb or detached from emotions
  • Feeling like you are in a trance or altered state of consciousness

These symptoms can occur at different times and in different situations, and can be triggered by stress, anxiety, fear, or other emotional states. Some people may experience dissociation during periods of extreme stress or trauma, while others may experience it as a chronic, ongoing condition.

Types of Dissociation

There are different types of dissociation, including:

  • Depersonalization – Feeling detached from yourself or your body, like you are observing yourself from a distance.
  • Derealization – Feeling disconnected or detached from your surroundings, like the world is not real or is a dream.
  • Amnesia – Experiencing memory gaps or blackouts, where you are unable to remember events or periods of time.
  • Identity confusion – Feeling unsure of your sense of identity or sense of self, like you have lost touch with who you are.
  • Identity alteration – Feeling like you have different, distinct identities or personalities that take control at different times or in different situations.

These different types of dissociation can coexist and can change over time, and can also be associated with other mental health conditions such as trauma, anxiety, depression, or personality disorders.

The Impact of Dissociation

Dissociation can have a significant impact on a person’s life, making it challenging to function in daily activities, work, or social situations. It can affect a person’s ability to form and maintain relationships, express emotions, and respond to stress or trauma. In some cases, dissociation can lead to self-harm, substance abuse, or other harmful behaviors as a way to cope with the emotional pain and distress.

It is important to seek professional help if you experience symptoms of dissociation, as it can be a complex and challenging condition to manage. Psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication may be helpful in treating dissociation, and a mental health professional can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan based on your individual needs and experiences.

Coping Strategies for Dissociation

While dissociation can be a difficult experience to manage, there are some coping strategies that may be helpful, including:

  • Focusing on grounding techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness exercises, to help you stay connected to the present moment and your surroundings.
  • Engaging in sensory activities, such as listening to music, focusing on the feel of different textures, or smelling different scents, to help you stay connected to your senses and your body.
  • Seeking support from trusted friends or family members, who can offer validation, empathy, and understanding.
  • Creating a safe and calm environment in your home or work space, where you can feel secure and relaxed.
  • Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and practicing good sleep hygiene to help support your overall physical and mental health.
  • Avoiding alcohol, drugs, or other substances that can exacerbate dissociation or contribute to harmful behaviors.

It is important to remember that coping with dissociation can be a process, and may take time, patience, and support. Working with a mental health professional can provide you with the tools, resources, and encouragement to manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being.

Conclusion

Dissociation can be a challenging and distressing experience, but it is not uncommon and can be managed with proper support and treatment. Understanding the symptoms, types, and impact of dissociation can help you recognize when you may be experiencing dissociation and seek help when needed. Coping strategies such as grounding techniques, sensory activities, and seeking support from trusted friends and family members can help you manage your symptoms and regain a sense of control and well-being. Remember, you are not alone, and with the right treatment and support, you can learn to manage your symptoms and thrive.

FAQs

FAQs About What Dissociation Feels Like

1. Can everyone experience dissociation?

Yes, everyone is capable of experiencing dissociation. It’s a normal response to certain situations, such as trauma or stress. However, some people may be more prone to dissociating than others, and it can become a chronic issue if left untreated.

2. What are the different types of dissociation?

There are several types of dissociation, including depersonalization (feeling disconnected from one’s own body), derealization (feeling like the world around you isn’t real), and dissociative amnesia (having difficulty remembering things). Dissociation can also manifest as dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder).

3. How can I help someone who is dissociating?

The best way to help someone who is dissociating is to remain calm and grounded yourself. Try to bring them back to the present moment by talking to them in a soothing voice, reminding them where they are, and encouraging them to engage their senses (e.g. asking them to describe what they see, hear, and feel). It’s also important to remember that dissociation is a coping mechanism, so be patient and non-judgmental. If someone’s dissociation is severe or frequent, it’s important for them to seek professional help.


References

1. Sumner, J. A., Griffith, J. W., & Mineka, S. (2010). Overgeneral autobiographical memory and chronic interpersonal stress as predictors of the course of depression in adolescents. Cognition and Emotion, 24(3), 497-505. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930903274377

2. van der Kolk, B. A. (2002). Effects of trauma: A developmental perspective. Presentation at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD, November 2002. Retrieved from http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/Effects_of_Trauma.pdf

3. Lanius, R. A., Bluhm, R. L., Rabellino, D., & Frewen, P. A. (2018). Understanding comorbid dissociation and PTSD: Recent advances and future directions. Journal of traumatic stress, 31(1), 1-10. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22255