What is dissociation?

  • Dissociation is when you disconnect from your thoughts, emotions, identity, memory, body, or surroundings. It is a normal response to trauma as it helps you survive an experience without fully being there. It is a way your mind tries to protect you from what is happening by cutting you off from it. If you experienced childhood abuse or neglect, your brain might be very good at dissociating. 

  • Two common forms of dissociation are depersonalization, where you feel like you are watching yourself from outside your body, and derealization, where the world and other people around you don't seem real. 

  • Most people dissociate some of the time, usually by doing things like daydreaming or zoning out while driving for a long time on the highway. Not everyone who dissociates has a dissociative disorder.

  • More extreme forms of dissociation can involve forgetting who you are, ending up in an unfamiliar place and not knowing how you got there, or behaving in ways that are out of character and not remembering the behaviour afterwards. 

  • When you experience trauma, different parts of yourself may take on protective roles to try to prevent more harm from happening to you. The more traumatic experiences you have, the more extreme these roles can become. When these parts of yourself get triggered, they may influence your emotions, thoughts, or behaviour, even to the point where they can take over. This is what can lead to dissociative disorders, which can be very disruptive to a person's life. 

  • Addressing serious forms of dissociation can involve exploring what is making it difficult to cope with daily life and taking steps to heal the traumatized parts of yourself. This process can take time and working with a trauma-informed therapist can be very helpful. 


More information about dissociation:





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