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Am I dissociating? 6 signs you need to know

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Having associations with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, dissociation can occur to a wide range of people. But what is dissociation, and how is it treated? Read on to find out.

What is Dissociation?

Dissociation is one way in which the body copes with too much stress, such as from a traumatic event.

For many, dissociation is a natural response to trauma that is uncontrollable. It can be from either a one-time event or something traumatic that was ongoing. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a dissociative subtype, which 14.4% of those with PTSD fall into.

Episodes of dissociation can last for any length of time. Some people dissociate for only a few hours or days, while others might dissociate for weeks or even months. Those who dissociate for a long time, especially at a young age, may develop a dissociative disorder. For these individuals, dissociating becomes their primary way of dealing with any stressful experience.

What it Looks and Feels Like

Dissociation is a different experience for every single person. Because of this, psychiatrists have grouped common dissociative experiences into six categories.

1, Dissociative Amnesia: You can’t remember personal information, or you might have gaps in your life where you can’t remember what happened.

2, Dissociative Fugue: You might travel to a new location and take on a new identity.

3, Derealisation: You feel that the world around you is unreal and may see objects changing in size, shape, or colour. You see the world as “foggy” or “lifeless” and may feel like other people are robots, although you know they are not.

4, Depersonalisation: You feel that you are looking at yourself from the outside. You don’t feel your emotions but observe them, and you may also feel disconnected from parts of your body, like they are floating away.

5, Identity Alteration: You may begin to speak in a different voice or feel your identity shift and change. You feel like you are losing control to “someone else” and may act like different people.

6, Identity Confusion: You have a hard time defining the type of person you are or may feel as though there are two people inside of you.

Treatment Options

Dissociation can be treated with different forms of psychotherapy to reduce symptom frequency and improve coping strategies for dissociation experiences.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This form of therapy helps to change the negative thinking and behaviour associated with depression. It focuses on recognising negative thoughts and working on coping strategies to overcome them.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

This type of therapy teaches coping skills to combat destructive urges, improve relationships, and regulate emotions. Utilising individual and group work, DBT encourages mindfulness techniques such as regulated breathing, self-soothing, and meditation.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This type of therapy works to alleviate the distress that is associated with traumatic memories. It does this by combining CBT techniques of relearning through patterns with visual stimulation exercises. This then replaces the negative beliefs associated with traumatic memories with positive ones.

If you or someone you know is looking for more information about dissociation or are interested in treatment services, please reach out for more information or to book a consultation.

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