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Dissociation

Dissociation is described as a disconnection between one or more of a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, consciousness, memory, perception, or identity. While most people experience it during their lives, everybody's experience is different.


Absorbed in normal activities and dissociated from our environment
Absorbed in reading a book

Everyday experiences of dissociation can include daydreaming, becoming absorbed in a book, movie, or music and not being aware of immediate surroundings, or driving a familiar route and arriving at your destination without memory of how you got there. These experiences are normal.


calm environment dissociation
Dissociation can be used to help us cope with threatening or unpleasant situations

Apart from everyday, normal experiences, dissociation can be used as a coping mechanism for several different reasons, for example, stressful situations, a traumatic incident, or developed as a result of repetitive negative experiences throughout childhood.


In most cases, individuals may not be aware that they are dissociating.


Dissociation can become problematic if, for example, it occurs when there is no current threat to an individual, or the threat no longer exists. It can impact the ability to react appropriately to different situations, environments, or people and can impact quality of life.


Dissociation can also be experienced as a symptom of a mental health diagnosis such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or other diagnoses. Other causes may be due to cultural or religious practices, a side effect of medication, alcohol, or other substances.


Dissociation occurs on a spectrum from everyday experiences to disorders that impact our daily functioning and quality of life.

Help for dissociation
Hands up for help

There are treatments that can assist with dissociation.

Speaking with a medical provider, therapeutic support or other support is the first step.


 


References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). DSM-V. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: APA Publishing.

International society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD): https://www.isst-d.org/resources/dissociation-faqs/







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