Dissociation can happen at any point in our lives and too any of us, it is a mental process where an individual disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories and/or sense of identity.
Experiencing such cognitive disorder can feel very alienating you may experience some of the following – you can forget things or have gaps in your memory, you may think you and/or the physical world isn’t real. You may experience an out-of-body experience, feel as though you are a different person, become emotionally numb or detached, or feel little or no pain
The symptom’s do often go away on their own, this could take hours, days, weeks or sometimes longer these can also be re-currant and happen every so often. Sometimes you may need treatment if the episode is prolonged or if you have a mental health disorder such as schizophrenia.
There are several disorders that stem from dissociation these include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalisation disorder, peritraumatic dissociation and dissociative identity disorder. (Below is taken and adapted from google)
Dissociative amnesia is a condition in which an individual cannot remember important information about their life. This disorder may be limited to certain specific areas (thematic), or may include much of the person’s life history and/or identity (general)
Dissociative fugue, formerly called fugue state or psychogenic fugue, is a subtype of dissociative amnesia. It involves loss of memory for personal autobiographical information combined with unexpected and sudden travel and sometimes setting up a new identity.
Depersonalisation Disorder is the experience of feeling unreal, detached, and often, unable to feel emotion. It is a phenomenon characterised by a disruption in self-awareness and emotional numbness, where many people feel that they are disconnected or estranged from oneself.
Peritraumatic dissociation, a term used to describe a complex array of reactions to trauma, including depersonalization, derealization, and emotional numbness, has been associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms across a number of studies.
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental health condition. People with DID have two or more separate identities. These personalities control their behaviour at different times. Each identity has its own personal history, traits, likes and dislikes.
Other symptoms you can get that are related to dissociation is an altered sense of time, not remembering how you came to be somewhere, have a tunnel vision, hear voices in your head, have intense flash backs that feel real – each of which can be very confusing for the individual experiencing.
The main cause for dissociation is trauma, trauma is the cause of most mental illnesses. You may psychologically disconnect from the present moment if something really bad happens to you. This is called peritraumatic dissociation. Experts believe this is a technique your mind uses to protect you from the full impact of the upsetting experience you had.
Other causes of dissociation can be self-hypnosis, daydreaming can send our mind into an ‘auto-hypnotic state’, this is where you may no longer have a self-awareness of your body. Certain drugs can cause dissociation you may lose your sense of identity or reality if you consume alcohol or take illicit drugs.
It’s possible to have dissociation and not know it. Common signs you or a loved one should watch out for include:
Rapid mood swings, trouble remembering personal details, forgetfulness about things you’ve said or done, behaviour or abilities that change (altered identities), depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Diagnosis & treatment of Dissociation
There is no specific drug to treat dissociation, but it’s possible to get better with a mix of medication and talking therapies. Your doctor will tailor your care based on how severe your symptoms are and their cause.
Your treatment may include:
Psychotherapy. This kind of treatment may help you find the cause of your dissociation. But the goal is to help you manage or get rid of your symptoms.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It’s designed to help you see and change negative thoughts and behaviours.
Hypnotherapy. You may find it easier to explore and process your memories when you are in a relaxed state. You should only do this with a professional certified in hypnosis who is trained in dissociative disorders and PTSD.
Phasic trauma treatment. This treatment aims to help you stop suicidal thoughts or self-destructive behaviour first. Then your psychotherapist will slowly help you process any traumatic memories and re-integrate your identities, if necessary.
Family treatment. You may find it helpful to get support from a spouse, partner, or other loved one.
Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT). It may help you learn skills to control your emotions and stop harmful behaviour. This is a common treatment for borderline personality disorder.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It uses techniques from CBT along with visual exercises to help you work through memories of severely troubling events. It may help stop your nightmares, flashbacks, or other symptoms you may be experiencing.
I think with any mental illness it is key that we understand what we are going through in order to regulate these emotions in a positive way, having feelings of dissociation can be alienating internally and externally, you may not recognise your own body or feelings and it may be difficult for you to find a balance cognitively. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it may be of benefit if you speak with some one about this, we at SAPUK can help with understanding of your mental health