What is Dissociation?

If you dissociate you might have symptoms such as not feeling connected to your own body, as if the world around you isn’t real, or you may develop different identities.

It is a symptom (though it can also be a condition in its own right) of borderline personality disorder which affects the way you think.

Many things in life can cause you to dissociate. Perhaps you are under a lot of stress and pressure or something traumatic has happened, or perhaps you are suffering extreme anxiety.

There are lots of symptoms of dissociation, and you may have just one, a few or many. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • loss of feelings, you may feel numb and disconnected
  • depersonalisation, or feeling disconnected from your body (some people liken this to being on auto-pilot)
  • memory loss – you might forget how you got somewhere, or forget something that happened (such as lunch with a friend, or a doctors appointment).

For some people symptoms can happen over a short period of time, or may last longer. Each time is called an episode. You may have frequent episodes, or only have them under times of extreme stress. If you have episodes constantly, or near constantly, you may have a dissociative disorder.

There are different things that can trigger an episode. For example, they may happen when you feel stressed or anxious, they may happen during or after a traumatic event, or they may happen during difficult situations (such as arguments or when feeling overwhelmed).

As with bpd, there is no medication specifically for dissociate symptoms, although there are medications which can help alleviate the symptoms. These include anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers and anxiety medications.

Talking therapies are also recommend, particularly CBT and DBT. These can help change the way you think about yourself and others, teach you healthy coping mechanisms, and help you manage or foresee triggers.

Some self-care techniques can also be useful. For example, keeping a diary of your goals, thoughts, feelings can help you see patterns – sometimes a diary is recommended alongside CBT sessions.

Grounding techniques are also useful, and best when regularly practiced – this reassures you that the technique works and can help you in the situation. One good technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique:

Say out loud (if you can):

  • 5 things that you can SEE.
  • 4 things that you can FEEL. 
  • 3 sounds you can hear.
  • 2 things you can SMELL. 
  • 1 thing you can TASTE.

You can also try to use relaxation and mindfulness to help you feel more relaxed and confident. It’s important to find something you enjoy, such as cookery, art or reading – something you will find calming and relaxing.

Getting a good nights sleep, and a healthy diet, are also ways to help you feel better in yourself – it’s important to look after the body as well as the mind. Reducing caffeine, trying to eat more fresh foods and drink more water can all help with wellbeing.

If you would like to know more about dissociation and dissociative disorders, you can visit the following sites:

NHS – Dissociative Disorders

Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors (PODS) 

First Person Plural


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