We have likely all experienced mild dissociation at some time or another, whether it’s spacing out during a boring meeting or finding ourselves daydreaming. However, for some individuals, dissociating becomes an ongoing coping strategy as a way to deal with the overwhelming stress and anxiety associated with trauma. In this article we will take a look at why trauma-related dissociation occurs, what it might look like, and the healing process.
What is Dissociation?
Dissociation can be thought of as an individual disconnecting from their thoughts, feelings, memories, and/or surroundings. It is commonly associated with trauma, as an individual may dissociate to escape from overwhelming fear, hopelessness, or pain during a traumatic event. Dissociation can also occur after trauma, when one thinks about or is reminded of what has happened to them. Often occurring subconsciously, dissociation functions to protect an individual from facing painful memories.
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Signs of Dissociation
There are various ways that dissociation can present. Each individual may experience it differently. However, there are some general signs and symptoms of dissociation including:
- Spacing out or daydreaming
- Memory loss
- Experiencing flashbacks
- Feeling like you’re watching yourself from outside of your body
- Feeling disconnected from your surroundings
- Losing touch with reality
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms frequently and it is impacting your daily functioning, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Experiencing dissociation regularly may signal the presence of a dissociative disorder, or another mental health problem such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Healing After Trauma
Dissociation allows a person to avoid confronting the painful emotions and memories associated with trauma. While this can help them cope in the moment, it also delays healing. It is crucial for an individual to be able to stay with themselves as they process what has happened to them. Working with a therapist can provide an avenue for healing as they can assist an individual in staying grounded and addressing their trauma head on in a safe environment.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.