Dissociation is the brain’s way of disconnecting from your thoughts, identity or feelings during extreme stress. Dissociation itself is a short term phenomenon. However, if you dissociate for a long time or repetitively throughout life this may be diagnosed as a dissociative disorder.
Professionals believe that the main cause of dissociation is childhood or past trauma. It develops as a way to protect yourself in stressful situations when you have no other skills that are useful for coping.
The symptoms of dissociation can include but are not limited to:
- Memory lapses that have no explanation
- A sudden shift in mood – suddenly feeling sad for example
- Feeling disconnected from yourself
- Feeling as if the world around you isn’t real
- Cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating
- Identity confusion – behaving in a way that isn’t normal for you
- Problems handling intense emotions
Diagnosis of dissociative disorder will depend on how you are experiencing dissociation, how much distress it causes you, whether it interferes with your life or whether it is a side effect of another medication. A specially trained professional will need to run a full assessment in order to make a diagnosis. Your GP or primary care doctor can make a referral to a specialist.
Treatment for dissociative disorder include medication and talking therapies such as counselling or psychotherapy. While there is no specific medication for dissociative disorders, medications may help to control depression or anxiety to relieve some of your symptoms.
If you are experiencing symptoms of dissociative disorder you will need to bring these worries up with your primary care doctor who can refer you to the correct services. If you feel like you are a danger to yourself or others please visit your nearest emergency room as soon as possible.