ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH DISSOCIATION?
Dissociation is when the mind seeks refuge from a stressful situation by disconnecting itself from different aspects of a person’s consciousness. It serves as a coping mechanism for dealing with severe stress, trauma, or overwhelming emotions. A person is likely to experience dissociation at some point during their life and it can feel different for everyone. The episodes can be mild and occasional or severe and chronic, affecting the quality of your daily life. It’s important to remember that help is out there. At Select Psychology, our team of specialists provides a range of support services to help you cope with dissociation in a safe and confidential environment.
WHAT IS DISSOCIATION?
Dissociation is a mental process when a person experiences a disconnection from their thoughts, identity, consciousness, memory or perception of the environment. Dissociation is often understood as a defence mechanism used for coping with stress, overwhelming situations and trauma. When someone dissociates, it results in the person feeling detached from their thoughts, feelings or surroundings. It is common to experience dissociation during your lifetime.
One can experience dissociation from mild and occasional episodes to severe and chronic type of dissociation that disrupts and impacts your daily life. In the latter cases, the causes of dissociation can include trauma, abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), certain other mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and sometimes, even substance abuse. There are several types of dissociative experiences, some of these include:
- Depersonalisation: When someone feels detached from their own body, thoughts or emotions. It may feel as though you are observing yourself from a distance or from outside your body.
- Amnesia: This can occur in extremely stressful and traumatic situations. It is when a person forgets any important personal information, experience, skill or event.
- Derealisation: Feeling disconnected and detached from the external world, as though things around them are distorted or unreal.
- Identity alteration or confusion: This is generally regarded as the most complex form of dissociation. It involves disruptions in a person’s sense of self or identity. This can manifest as multiple distinct personalities or identity states within an individual. This type of dissociation is a mental health disorder known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
Symptoms of Dissociation
Dissociation can manifest through a range of symptoms and each individual may experience them differently. The symptoms may vary in intensity and frequency depending on the underlying causes, but some of these include:
- Experiencing periods when time feels unaccounted for or there are gaps in memory regarding what happened during a specific time
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks or conversations
- Feeling mentally foggy or detached from the present moment
- Vivd, intrusive memories or re-experiencing of traumatic events
- Unwanted and distressing thoughts or images that are difficult to control or manage
- Feeling like your experiences or surroundings aren’t real
- Feeling detached from the reality and the present
WHEN TO SEEK THERAPY FOR DISSOCIATION
You should consider therapy for dissociation when:
You regularly experience depersonalisation that impacts your daily life
It is causing emotional distress and affecting your relationships, work or any other aspect of your everyday life
You are struggling with identity confusion, experiencing memory gaps or suspecting Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
If you are engaging in self-harming behaviours or having suicidal thoughts
If you have prior history of trauma, abuse or adverse experiences which are now cabins you to experience dissociation on a regular basis
Even if dissociation is not severely impacting your life, but you are interested in exploring and understanding your experiences, therapy can offer support, insights and coping strategies
THE BEST THERAPIES FOR TREATING DISSOCIATION
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
Counselling & Psychotherapy
BENEFITS OF THERAPY FOR DISSOCIATION
Improves daily functioning, concentration and productivity
Treating dissociation can lead to improved interpersonal relationships
Equips you with coping strategies to regulate and manage emotions effectively
Alleviates distress and anxiety related to dissociation
Helps you explore and identify your sense of self
Reduces feelings of isolation
Helps you regain a sense of control over your life
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP WITH DISSOCIATION
If you are suffering, it is best to seek treatment as soon as you are able to, but in the meantime there are some things that can help while you are waiting for your first appointment:
Practice grounding techniques
This can help you connect with the present moment. This generally involves identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
Breathing exercises and relaxation methods
When experiencing symptoms, you should turn your focus to your breathing pattern and regulate normal breathing by taking deep breaths. Concentrating on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five can help reduce feelings of dissociation.
Keeping a record of your experiences, thoughts and feelings can help in tracking dissociative episodes and identifying triggers. This can provide helpful insights for therapy and help you manage dissociative episodes.
Structure your day
Establishing a daily routine with set times for meals, activities and self-care can help provide a sense of stability and predictability, helping you keep in the present moment as per the routine.
Talking to someone you trust can help ease the burden of facing a difficult experience alone and make you feel like you have people you can rely on and express yourself around.
Learning more about dissociation by learning its causes, and coping strategies can help you understand your experiences and communicate better whilst making you feel empowered.
HOW CAN OUR PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES HELP WITH DISSOCIATION?
We offer a wide range of therapies to help with dissociation and give you the tools to cope and understand your emotions. We are a private mental health service with highly trained therapists and no waiting lists.
This is how therapy would work:
Get in touch
HELPFUL THINGS TO KNOW
Is dissociation temporary or permanent?
Dissociation can be temporary if triggered by a recent stressful situation or trauma, and subside once the stressor diminishes, however, it can also be chronic, especially in conditions like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), where dissociation is a persistent and recurring aspect of daily life. In the latter cases, treatment and support are crucial.
Can children experience dissociation?
Yes, it is possible for children to experience dissociation, often as a response to trauma, abuse or extreme stress. Their developing brains may use dissociation as a defence mechanism to cope with overwhelming emotions and experiences, leading to detachment from reality and their sense of self.
Can dissociation affect memory and recall?
During dissociative episodes memory can be fragmented or blocked, affecting the ability to recall events. DID can also result in memory gaps and amnesia between different identity states.
How can I support a loved one struggling with dissociation?
- Offer understanding and be patient
- Encourage them to seek professional mental health support to help them cope healthily
- Learn about dissociation to provide informed support
- Respect their boundaries and coping mechanisms
- Create a safe environment for open communication
- Be a consistent and supportive presence in their life