Here are a few definitions you’ll need while reading this:
- maladaptive – not providing appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation
- adaptive – conforming, conversion
- trauma – a deeply distressing or disturbing experience
- dysregulation – abnormality or impairment in the regulation of a metabolic, physiological, or psychological process
- amnesia – recurrent memory problems, often described as “losing time”, these gaps in memory can vary from several minutes to years
The medical and official definition of dissociation is “a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other.” In this sense, it could mean a disconnect from reality, identity, emotions, or even actions. This is also my personal definition/view on dissociation.
Dissociative disorders are caused only by some form of trauma, usually repetitive sexual or physical abuse, but emotional abuse is definitely a cause (depending on the disorder) . With that frame of reference in mind, childhood dissociation can be considered adaptive to help the child deal with the stressful situation, but when it continues into adulthood or if there is no longer any abuse, it becomes maladaptive. People with maladaptive dissociation tend to space out randomly, even when there isn’t any danger, or in a situation without immediate danger. This can cause the sufferer to end up in places they don’t remember going to, doing things they don’t remember, and saying things they wouldn’t usually because of how the conscious brain “shuts down” temporarily.
People with these symptoms are often misdiagnosed as schizophrenic due to similarities in the criteria. This can cause incorrect medicines to be prescribed and the wrong therapy techniques to be used.
There are four main types of dissociative disorders: DID, OSDD, Depersonalization/Derealization, and Dissociative Amnesia. I have a post written on this as well. Here’s the tumblr link: https://gay-osdd-kid.tumblr.com/post/169372801868/dissociative-disorders
So, what is it like to dissociate? It differs for everyone, but for me personally, it’s like being out of my own body. I’ll look at my hands or my feet and I don’t even realize they’re mine. I disconnect from my environment and disconnect from both my physical and mental self. It’s almost as if my brain has turned off. Sometimes, this trance-like state lasts for minutes, hours, or even days. I have lots of days where I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast or I’ll find myself in a room I don’t remember walking into.
Dissociation is a scary thing, and it’s something to take seriously. If you experience this, please talk to someone you trust, and a therapist that you have access to.