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Dissociation 

What is Dissociation 

Many people may experience dissociation (dissociate) during their life.

If you dissociate, you may feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you. For example, you may feel detached from your body or feel as though the world around you is unreal. Remember, everyone’s experience of dissociation is different.

Dissociation is one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event.

Experiences of dissociation can last for a relatively short time (hours or days) or for much longer (weeks or months).

If you dissociate for a long time, especially when you are young, you may develop a dissociative disorder. Instead of dissociation being something you experience for a short time it becomes a far more common experience, and is often the main way you deal with stressful experiences.

Treatment 

Talking therapies

Talking therapies are often recommended for dissociative disorders.

The aim of talking therapies such as counselling and psychotherapy is to help you cope with the underlying cause of your symptoms, and to learn and practise techniques to manage the periods of feeling disconnected.

Medicines

There's no specific medicine to treat dissociation, but medicines liks antidepressants may be prescribed to treat associated conditions like depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

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There are people you can talk to who want to help:

  • speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust, as they may be able to help you calm down and find some breathing space

  • call the Samaritans' free 24-hour support service on 116 123

  • go to, or call, your nearest A&E and tell the staff how you're feeling

  • contact NHS 111

  • make an urgent appointment to see a GP

Find out more about getting help if you're feeling suicidal

If you have a dissociative disorder, getting help and support is an important part of the recovery process.

Talking to your partner, family and friends about how your past experiences have affected you can help you come to terms with what happened, as well as helping them understand how you feel.

You may also find these organisations helpful:

Mind has a more comprehensive list of support organisations for people with dissociative disorders.

Reading about other people with similar experiences may also help.

You can read people's personal accounts of living with a number of different mental health conditions on healthtalk.org.

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Signs & Symptoms 
  • Dissociation is a way the mind copes with too much stress.

  • People who dissociate may feel disconnected from themselves and the world around them.

  • Periods of dissociation can last for a relatively short time (hours or days) or for much longer (weeks or months).

  • It can sometimes last for years, but usually if a person has other dissociative disorders.

  • Many people with a dissociative disorder have had a traumatic event during childhood.

  • They may dissociate and avoid dealing with it as a way of coping with it.

  • Someone with a dissociative disorder may have problems with:

  • movement

  • sensation

  • seizures

  • periods of memory loss

  • They may also feel uncertain about who they are and have many different identities.

Types of dissociative disorder

 

There are several different types of dissociative disorder.

The 3 main types are:

  • dissociative disorders of movement or sensation

  • dissociative amnesia

  • dissociative identity disorder

Associated conditions

Someone with a dissociative disorder may also have other mental health conditions, such as:

They may also have problems sleeping (insomnia).

People with dissociative disorders may have repeated investigations or treatments for similar conditions with a physical cause.

This in itself can cause symptoms or further illness.

When might i dissociate?

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