Dissociation is an experience where your attention and emotions are disconnected from the present moment.It’s like you’re here, but your mind and emotions are somewhere else.
This is a general term and experience.
I talked in a previous video about depersonalization and derealization.
Those are specific kinds of dissociative experiences. With depersonalization you feel detached or disconnected from yourself so you may feel like you’re observing yourself. With derealization, you feel disconnected from your environment. You may feel like the room you’re in isn’t real or that you’re in a different place than you really are.
An example of this is experiencing a car accident where you smelled the burning rubber of your tires. Then whenever you are riding in a car you think you smell the rubber again. That is an example of a dissociative experience you can have after the trauma experience. But sometimes you can dissociate during a traumatic event. This can be your mind’s way of protecting you from a situation where there is no escape. This is pretty common during physical or sexual trauma when you can’t get away.
In order to endure the assault, you brain turns down your response to pain and numbs your emotional response. In your mind you may go to another place such that it feels like it’s really not happening to you. During the traumatic experience, that kind of reaction helps you survive it. But then sometimes dissociation becomes a built in defense mechanism that you employ in other situations that are unrelated to trauma. For example, you can be triggered to feel disconnected or numb in response to something that reminded you of the trauma, even if you weren’t consciously aware of the trigger. You can just feel empty all the time and not know why. Smells and sounds can remind you of the trauma in a way that your body responds with anxiety and fear, but you don’t always put it together why you’re feeling anxious. It’s like the fragmented memories can come flooding back in response to sights, sounds and touch. Anxiety is another trigger that can send you into a dissociative state. So let’s say you are under a lot of stress at work. You can have trouble relating to people at work because with the added stress, you start zoning out at work. Or you start withdrawing from people because you feel like you’re a stranger and your coworkers make you feel uncomfortable. What can you do about this?
The best treatments are trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, prolonged exposure, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. One self-help approach is to use grounding techniques. Grounding techniques bring your awareness back to the present moment where you ARE safe. It’s like getting your bearing and refocusing. You can use sensory grounding or cognitive grounding. Sensory grounding uses the five senses to bring you back to the present moment and cognitive grounding uses your thoughts to remind yourself that you ARE in a safe place. Sensory grounding exercises: The 5-4-3-2-1 sensory exercise. Use a grounding smell that can bring your attention back to the present. Carry a sensory grounding object in your pocket. Splash cold water on your face and neck. Cognitive grounding exercises: Show yourself that you’re safe. Orient yourself to time and place. Repeat an inspiring quote or saying that’s comforting to you. Say coping statements like I can handle this, my situation is so much better now, these feelings with pass, etc.
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Disclaimer: All of the information on this channel is for educational purposes and not intended to be specific/personal medical advice from me to you. Watching the videos or getting answers to comments/question, does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. If you have your own doctor, perhaps these videos can help prepare you for your discussion with your doctor.