An Insight Into Dissociation and How It Affects Your Life

  • Time to read: 5 min.

Dissociation is your body’s defense mechanism to help you disconnect from the current reality to mentally cope with a difficult situation unique to your life’s circumstances.

Why Do I Dissociate For No Reason?

The reason you dissociate varies from person to person, their past and current life experiences. Dissociation is so individualized, tendencies can manifest in many different ways. For you, it could be a smell, a word, a sound you heard, a taste, a feeling, or something you saw or read that led to you dissociating.

Dissociation is a mental process where you disconnect from your thoughts and emotions. The dissociation does not occur to punish you for something. Instead, it happens to protect you from something, to help you survive.

Dissociation can be due to traumatic events or violence, but dissociation can also occur because of other factors that cause stress for an individual. For example, some dissociative episodes might come on suddenly and seemingly without explanation; this tends to happen when something in your current environment reminds you of past trauma, and your subconscious withdraws from reality as a coping mechanism.

When something reminds you of a past situation, it is called a trigger. A dissociative experience may also be triggered by non-traumatic events such as stress at work or school, emotional changes/upsets, or a loud noise or bright light. People dissociate for different reasons and can dissociate in response to varying types of events/emotions. No matter the trigger, dissociation is a way for the mind to escape from everyday stressors and intense emotions that may be difficult to process.

It is pretty brilliant that we have a built-in default switch that when coping with what is around us is too much, the button is hit, and we dissociate. Of course, many people see dissociation as a bad thing, but it is an act of self-love in my worldview.  

Is Dissociation A Coping Tool?

Yes, dissociation is a coping tool. If one has dissociated for most of their life, dissoication becomes a tool for coping with all feelings, thoughts, and circumstances and often becomes automatic.

You dissociate because it’s your automatic response to deal with trauma or negative emotions, so you dissociate from reality without even realizing what you’re doing at the time. When dissociation is the only coping tool utilized, your life is lived on a narrow road as you are busy navigating every grain of sand or rock in front of you instead of enjoying the beauty around and within you.  

Though dissociation may seem normal for some, it is challenging to deal with. If dissociation is affecting your life in negative ways, it’s time to do something about it. Doing something means learning how dissociation affects your life and then developing a plan of action that works for you.

Begin by learning the signs of dissociative tendencies. Sometimes a person knows they dissociate from reality from time to time but doesn’t know how to stop dissociation or the effects of dissociation on their life.

Judging yourself or being upset or frustrated with yourself because you dissociate will not be helpful to you in understanding what has happened, where the time went, what occurred and why or how to get help.

What Are the Effects of Dissociation?

Often a person who dissociates is aware that a significant amount of time has passed in which they have no recollection. The signs and symptoms can vary based on the person but may include:

  • Memory Loss
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feeling unreal
  • Limited social connections and relationships
  • Impulsivity which could be something small like continuously reaching for a handful of candy when one is sufficient, to something more significant like engaging in risky behaviors or dangerous activities.

In addition to the above signs, a higher incidence of depression and anxiety is linked to those who dissociate. The more dissociative you are, the higher your risk for depression or anxiety disorders. So, there is a risk of self-harm, increased drug or alcohol use.

How Can I Deal With Dissociation?

If dissociation occurs regulary, take note of what triggers you: loud noises, sudden movements, strong smells. Once you have an idea, start thinking about your coping mechanisms; do you have any? If outside stressors cause your dissociated episodes, look at ways to avoid those triggers until you have learned new coping strategies to deal with the trigger.

You are not alone. Many people dissociate and find they need help in developing new coping methods. It is a helpful idea to make an appointment with a therapist specializing in dissociation to get the help you require. They will help you with a plan of action and provide support.

How Do You Cope With Dissociation?

Figuring out how to cope with dissociation takes some experimenting.

Since everyone dissociates differently and triggers differ from one person to another, there’s no clear-cut formula.

A dissociated state isn’t a pleasant experience.

On the contrary, it’s a kind of amnesia where thoughts, feelings, memories, and incidents are dissociated from one another because your ability to integrate them into conscious awareness is overwhelming.

Dissociation isn’t just forgetting things that happen; it’s losing time you can’t account for – dissociation occurs when too much stress exceeds your coping abilities.

There are many ways to help you cope with dissociation.

Finding the ones that work for you takes experimentation. 

One idea may work today but not tomorrow, so trying various things to help you is imperative.

It may be a little thing such as going to bed at the same time every night or learning a new skill such as assertiveness that will make the difference for you.

Below is a partial list of ideas you can try:

  • Exercise
  • A New Hobby
  • Setting an alarm clock for activities throughout your day
  • Therapist
  • Grounding exercises
  • Going for a walk
  • Meditation
  • Gardening
  • Reading
  • Mindfulness
  • Eating Spicey Foods
  • Deep breathing
  • Having a lava lamp on
  • Relaxations
  • Listening to music

You can also explore other coping strategies by reading up on them. Here are two Personal Growth Guides that can help you.

6 Types of Meditation to Calm

Create a Better Life Through Mindfulness

Dealing With Dissociation in Relationships

Learning to cope with dissociation takes time, so be patient with yourself.

It’s important to remember that dissociation isn’t something you’re doing on purpose.

Instead, it’s the way your mind copes with stress that can otherwise be unbearable to deal with.

Dissociation is not an excuse to be used when things get hard, as it is your job to take care of yourself and learn how not to dissociate.

It’s hard enough to deal with dissociation when you’re alone.

Still, it can be awkward and complicated when you add a relationship into the mix and dissociate in front of somebody else. 

Once you realize you are dissociating, talk it out and work through the issue with your significant other.

You can use dissociation as an opportunity to communicate with your partner about what you’re going through so they know why dissociating is more likely to happen at certain times.

Dissociation affects people’s lives, including personal relationships, friendships, and even career choices.

However, once a person learns about dissociation and how to handle triggers, dissociation doesn’t have to control everything in your life.

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