Learning About Dissociation

Many people experience moments where they felt utterly spaced out. People often feel disconnected from themselves and the world around them. In some instances, they may feel detached from their bodies or feel as if the world around them is imaginary. It is a reminder that experiencing Dissociation is different from one another. 

What is Dissociation?

Dissociation or the feeling of being disconnected is a common experience. It may be a means for coping or escaping from stressful situations or experiences. For example, Dissociation is a way the mind manages a traumatic event. 

Dissociation experiences can last for a short time (hours or days) or even much longer (weeks or months). One analogy of describing a typical and straightforward dissociation is driving a car on autopilot and not paying attention to the road ahead. Despite not paying attention, the driver still manages to arrive at the destination safely. 

Another example is when the person is completely absorbed in watching a movie until the person next to them reaches for the popcorn, and their awareness snaps them back to the present moment. Consequently, if a person dissociates for a long time, they may develop a dissociative disorder. 

When will Dissociation occur?

For most people, Dissociation is a typical response to trauma that is uncontrollable. It may be a response to a single traumatic event or an ongoing trauma or abuse. Dissociative disorders are usually caused when Dissociation is used to protect oneself from trauma over a long time. It is mostly developed during childhood when the brain and personality are still in the process of developing.

On the other hand, people may choose to dissociate to calm down or focus on a task. Some may even use it as a part of a religious ritual. Dissociation is also a symptom of a mental health problem like:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

What are the different dissociation situations?

A person may experience Dissociation in several different ways. But it is to be noted that one can have any of these situations even if they don’t have a diagnosed dissociative disorder. Below are some of the experience one may find themselves in times of Dissociation:

1. Dissociative amnesia

A person might be experiencing Dissociation when he/she is having difficulty in remembering personal information. Frequently, they might have gaps in their lives that they can’t remember anything that happened.

2. Derealisation 

A person may feel like the world around them is unreal when they are experiencing Dissociation. They see objects changing in shape, size, or color. They may also see the world as lifeless and people as robots. 

3. Depersonalitation 

  • A person may feel like they are looking at themselves from the outside. It may feel like they observe their emotions and feel like they are floating away. Often, they feel skeptical of the boundaries between themselves and other people.

4. Identity alteration

  • A person experiencing Dissociation feels their identity shift and change. They tend to speak in a different tone, identity themselves in another name, and switch their personalities. 

What are the triggers?

A trigger is a reminder of a traumatic experience that causes people to experience Dissociation. Triggers could be by sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch. Several things can become triggers. 

People have dissociated memories that they may find resurface during flashbacks that can cause them to switch to another part of their identity. Having dissociated memories are caused by amnesia or because of different identity states with other memories. 

How is Dissociation treated?

Treatment for Dissociation is a long-term, consistent therapy to understand each alters and their various experiences. It is needed to break down the walls in mind and involves processing the original trauma. The treatment must be consistent despite being difficult because of resistant or skeptical alters of getting help. 

Rather than getting rid of each personality, the goal of the treatment is integration. It involves bringing together the parts of the person’s fragmented memory. A great bond between the person in therapy and their therapist is needed for the treatment’s success. 


Despite being a complicated and frustrating condition for individuals with Dissociation, it is a reminder that dissociating is a natural response of the brain and can work as an exceptional process for surviving traumatic experiences.


MacCutcheon, M. (2017, August 18). Understanding Dissociation and When It Becomes Problematic. Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/understanding-dissociation-when-it-becomes-problematic-1203155

About dissociation. (n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders/about-dissociation/

Causes. (n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders/causes/

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