Dissociation refers to a psychological experience characterized by a detachment or disruption in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, identity, or sense of reality. Dissociation experiences can occur on a continuum, ranging from mild to severe. Oftentimes, dissociation is a protective mechanism, defense mechanism, or coping strategy the human brain employs to protect itself against stressful or traumatic experiences.
Why Do We Dissociate?
Dissociation allows humans to cope with anxiety and trauma by creating psychological distance or detachment. In some cases, dissociation is normal and even healthy. It is important to note that while dissociation might be healthy in some cases, excessive or prolonged episodes may have negative consequences.
Frequent and high-intensity levels of dissociation may interfere with daily functioning, relationships, and overall well-being. In severe cases, dissociation may result in complex psychological conditions, such as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). When considering if dissociation is problematic in your life or not, it might be helpful to think about frequency, intensity, and duration. Dissociative episodes that interfere with everyday functioning may be a cause for concern.
Coping Skills for Dissociation
While coping with dissociation can be challenging, there are strategies to use that might be helpful.
- Grounding techniques: Focusing on sensory experiences like touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste can help you reconnect with the present moment and your surroundings. Considering mindfully eating a piece of fruit, listening to music, or naming five things you see in the room.
- Deep breathing: Practicing deep breathing can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in a decrease in anxiety and stress. Try to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Create a safe space: Designate a physical safe space you can go to if dissociation occurs. You can also create a safe “mental place” where you can retreat if you do not have access to a physical space.
- Go to therapy: Consider seeking therapy from a mental health professional. Therapy can help provide tools and help in processing the underlying issues that might contribute to dissociation.
All in all, most people dissociate to a certain degree. It is a normal part of human survival. Dissociation occurs on a continuum and varies in intensity and concern. It is important to get help from a mental health professional if dissociation interferes with your daily functioning and relationships. Reach out to Mountain Vista Psychology to schedule an appointment!
Dr. Steffanie Stecker a licensed psychologist and the owner and clinical director of Mountain Vista Psychology, PLLC.
In addition, she is a board certified neurotherapist (BCN E5669) and board certified in QEEG (QEEG-D). Less than 100 people world wide are board certified in QEEG, which indicates competency in reading QEEGs and choosing neurofeedback protocols. Dr. Stecker is passionate about brain based effective therapy and creating a safe relationship for her clients to create change. She loves what she gets to do each day!