Trauma has many signs and symptoms, but lately, the concept of dissociation is getting more buzz. As often happens with mental health issues, there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding. Misconceptions can get confusing! So, what exactly is it? And when should you be concerned about it? Let’s break it down and hopefully gain a better understanding of dissociation!

What is Dissociation?

  1. It is NORMAL. Dissociation is a normal process your brain utilizes to cope with things like stress and trauma. The brain often needs a “break” to keep functioning during these times. Dissociation is one of the tools it can utilize to help with this.
  2. It is a RANGE. Like most mental processes, dissociation has a range of expressions. Mild expressions are the most common and encompass things like daydreaming, zoning out while watching a movie, or having little recollection of a familiar drive. Stronger expressions are less common and tend to leave us feeling detached or “out of it,” like we are not connected to our bodies or even reality. 
  3. It is VARIABLE. Feelings of dissociation can be brief, lasting no longer than a few days, or long-term, stretching into weeks or even months.  

When do I need to be concerned about Dissociation?

  1. When it is DISRUPTIVE: Any time a mental health issue is causing disruptions in your personal life, you should be seeking help. If you have difficulty completing daily tasks because you keep “zoning out,” this may indicate a dissociation disorder. If you notice that you’re having trouble recalling recent memories or events, this is a strong indicator of dissociation, and it will most likely take working with a professional to resolve the issue.
  2. When it is PERVASIVE: If you notice dissociative experiences happening more frequently or for more extended periods, it’s probably a good idea to seek help with them. While dissociation can be common, it should not be considered “the norm.” It indicates that your brain needs a break from something, and it can be hard to figure out without help!
  3. When it is tied to known TRAUMA:  As stated before, dissociation is a normal brain function that helps us cope so we can keep functioning. Often, in the case of trauma, this is a temporary solution. The dissociation should last only so long as we need the time to process the trauma and move on. In other words, if you know that you are experiencing dissociation due to trauma, you will most likely need to work on resolving that trauma before the dissociation eases up.

As always, this is just a very brief look at dissociation. If you have further questions or need help navigating your trauma history, we at Heartland Therapy Connection would love to meet with you. Call today and schedule an appointment with one of our trauma-centered therapists. We look forward to helping you!

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