Dissociation is a coping mechanism that is fundamental to surviving trauma. In fact the two go hand in hand. Understanding what it is, can help you in your own trauma recovery, or help you better understand your loved one’s healing journey.
Sometimes we as humans endure experiences that are emotionally overwhelming. When this happens, our brains can divide our experiences and break them up into disconnected parts. It’s kind of like a system overload, in which your brain tries to break information down into manageable fragments.
You can think of these fragments as if they are like pieces of a puzzle. In your hand, you many have one small piece of the picture, but you can’t really see the whole picture. When your brain employs dissociation, your mind focuses and excludes vital information. And while dissociation helps you cope, it also prevents long term healing.
What Are The Signs Of Dissociation?
Dissociation is complicated and recognizing it takes special training and experience. So, it’s always important to get a good diagnosis from a qualified professional.
But, how does a person know if they struggle with dissociation? Well there are several signs to look for:
- Numbness. You blank out and go emotionally numb. You lack feeling in general, or feelings about certain events are notably absent.
- Movements-Your body shakes, trembles or moves on it’s own
- Identity problems- your sense of who you are changes dramatically, or you may not remember how you used to be
- Derealization- you feel so disconnected that your environment almost seems fake or “unreal”
- Amnesia- you lose memories of what happened
All of these signs of dissociation can vary in intensity and duration.
What is a Dissociative Disorder?
Sometimes dissociation can be so troublesome that it impairs your ability to move forward in life. Chronic, intense or frequent dissociative symptoms can rear their head and make intimate relationships confusing and stressful. What’s more, your ability to produce in the workplace or classroom may be limited.
If this is the case you may be suffering from a dissociative disorder like:
Dissociation and Trauma- What Can You Do About It?
The truth is that everyone dissociates in harmless ways all the time. It’s a capacity that every healthy brain has. For example, you can leave work and drive down the road to your home. Then, when you arrive at your destination, you don’t remember the drive at all. Your focus was somewhere else. Perhaps you were lost in thoughts and daydreams. In effect, you are dissociating from your environment.
But if you struggle with dissociation that disrupts your personal or professional life, here is what you can do; get into therapy with a good trauma therapist. It’s important to find a therapist who has specialized training in doing psychotherapy with dissociative symptoms. Otherwise you are likely to spin your wheels and go nowhere. But that’s not all that can go wrong. I’ve worked with more than a few trauma patients whose symptoms got worse when they received the wrong kind of treatment.
There are several types of trauma therapy that can be helpful:
- Neurofeedback Therapy can help you learn to regulate your nervous system. This is essential for trauma recovery.
- EMDR Therapy is form of trauma treatment that can be very helpful at helping your brain reconnect those fragments that I wrote about above. This reconnection is necessary step in healing trauma.
Want to learn more about how I help trauma therapy patients? Please click on the link, and read through some of my trauma treatment blog posts!