What Is Dissociation?
Everybody dissociates, some of us more than others. If you have ever lost track of time staring out a window, been "spaced out," or have driven somewhere without remembering driving there, you were dissociating. Using the imagination can lead to a creative reverie, also a dissociation. Any time you "get lost" in a book or movie you are at it again.
Other activities that trigger dissociation are doodling, listening to a boring teacher, fatigue, boredom, or dwelling on something interesting. Though dissociation can be healthy and used creatively, like anything else, it can become too much of a good thing.
People might dissociate when they are extremely anxious or depressed. It is a way of "checking out" to avoid discomfort. Dissociation is also a survival mechanism. Victims will go numb, escape into their mind, or disconnect from their emotions to get through an abusive or crisis situation.
Dissociation makes the trauma endurable and/or allows people to keep functioning in extreme situations, such as war. Abuse victims sometimes report leaving their bodies and watching the trauma from above. In extreme cases of dissociation, individuals may experience a fragmenting of emotional states or their identity.
Derealization is a continuous state of dissociation. Individuals do not feel connected to what they are experiencing. People describe this as being in a fog, or that the world seems surreal. They do not feel as though they "are there," wherever they may be.
Another type of dissociation is depersonalization. People report not having a sense of self, or of a "me." Their body may feel as though it does not belong to them, and some report the sensation of standing just outside their body.
You cannot always spot an individual with a dissociative disorder. Many are very successful in their profession and may appear to "have it all together." Therapy is highly recommended for those troubled by dissociation.
Artwork by Nevit Dilmen