What is Dissociation?


Most people daydream now and then, and if that happens to you, it's perfectly normal. But if you have a mental health problem called "dissociation," your sense of disconnect from the world around you is often a lot more complicated than that.Dissociation is a break in how your mind handles information. You may feel disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings. It can affect your sense of identity and your perception of time.The symptoms often go away on their own. It may take hours, days, or weeks. You may need treatment, though, if your dissociation is happening because you've had an extremely troubling experience or you have a mental health disorder like schizophrenia.When you have dissociation, you may forget things or have gaps in your memory. You may think the physical world isn't real or that you aren't real.Have an out-of-body experienceFeel like you are a different person sometimesFeel like your heart is pounding or you're light-headedFeel emotionally numb or detachedFeel little or no painHave an altered sense of timeNot remember how you got somewhereHave tunnel visionHear voices in your headHave intense flashbacks that feel realBecome immobileGet absorbed in a fantasy world that seems realCauses of Dissociation

You may psychologically disconnect from the present moment if something really bad happens to you. This is called posttraumatic dissociation. Experts believe this is a technique your mind uses to protect you from the full impact of the upsetting experience you had. Posttraumatic dissociation can happen when you've been through things like:Sexual or physical assaultChildhood abuseCombatTorture or captureMotor vehicle accidentsHave intense flashbacks that feel realNatural disastersIf you've had disturbing experiences over and over, you may get severe forms of dissociation known as dissociative disorders. You may leave your normal consciousness, forget things, or form different identities within your mind.

When you daydream or let your mind wander, you are in a type of "auto-hypnotic state." You may no longer have a strong awareness of your body. Other types of hypnosis may put you in a deeper dissociated state. A trained professional may use therapeutic hypnotherapy to help you manage pain, anxiety, addictive behaviors, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Certain drugs.
You may lose your sense of identity or reality if you drink alcohol or take illicit drugs. Research shows that people who take psychedelics, like psilocybin and LSD, report briefly losing their sense of self.

Like daydreaming, you may become less aware of the here and now while you meditate. Some expert meditators say they lose an awareness of their self or body during certain mindfulness meditation practices.