What Is Dissociation?

Dissociation is when we become mentally detached from ourselves and 'zone out'. Many of us have had some experience of a mild form of this. A common example of mild dissociation, is when someone is talking to us and we can't remember a word they have said. We have gone somewhere else in our mind for a moment. If this doesn't happen very often then there is no cause for concern.

Although, at the other end of the spectrum, there are those who experience severe dissociation. For these people it can make getting on in life very difficult because of memory problems and gaps in time that cannot be accounted for. This can leave them feeling disconnected from themselves and others.

What Causes Dissociation?

People who experience moderate to severe dissociation have often experienced severe trauma in their early life. Some experts believe that young children in particular, have a natural ability to remove themselves mentally from an uncomfortable situation. Although, not everyone that experiences trauma in childhood will dissociate, so it is not simply a case of cause and effect.

Dissociation is a defense mechanism. It is the minds way of removing us from situations that we perceive as threatening. It serves a useful purpose, in that it helps us to separate ourselves from distressing life-events and enables us to carry on and survive. Although, it often causes memory problems because thoughts and feelings get disconnected. This is why some adults that were abused as children have no recollection of it happening.

Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation: Skills Training for Patients and Therapists (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)
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This book gives an insight into the kinds of trauma that causes dissociation and teaches the necessary skills to over come it.

How Do You Stop Dissociating?

Dissociation can leave you feeling out of control. But it doesn't have to be this way! It can get better and you can start to feel more in control of your life again. Here are a few things that you can do to help yourself become more self-aware:

  • Find a hobby that you enjoy, this should help to improve your concentration because you will need to focus on what you are doing. It's also good to have a few passions as it makes life more interesting.
  • Try and surround yourself with people who care about your well-being. Positive interactions with others can help us to feel better about ourselves and humanity. We are social creatures; we are not meant to lead a solitary existence. 
  • Exercise is good for your mind as well as your body because when you work your body out, your brain releases feel-good endorphins. This should help you to feel better about yourself and more connected to your body. Exercise also helps with depression.
  • Moisturize your body daily. It might sound like an unusual suggestion, but it can help you to feel more connected to yourself. It is quite common for people who dissociate often to feel disconnected from themselves. 
  • Listen to music that makes you feel good. It's widely accepted that music can have a huge effect on the brain. Listening to music that you like is going to make you want to stay in the moment.
  • Take a mental note of your surroundings. Think about where you are and what is around you. This is a good grounding technique.
  • Read some good self-help books that have been written by experts that understands this condition well.


The Wandering Mind: Understanding Dissociation from Daydreams to Disorders
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(price as of Jun 29, 2016)

Dissociation Isn't All Bad, Right?

Dissociation has its advantages: It can help us to get through traumatic events in our lives that would other wise overwhelm us. It is even a technique that is taught by some therapists to help their patients calm themselves.

You don't have  to stop 'zoning out' completely. You can even allow yourself to dissociate at convenient times of the day so you don't feel as though you are constantly fighting it. Dissociation has its benefits.

But when it is happening a lot of time and you feel like it is out of control, it is bound to have a negative effect on your relationships and quality of life. Exploring techniques that can develop your self-awareness, will help you to feel more connected with yourself and others, enabling you to live a better life.