It’s normal to daydream, but if you take things a step further and feel disconnected from the world, you could have a larger mental health problem.
The American Psychiatric Association explains that dissociation changes how your brain handles information, causing you to disconnect from thoughts, feelings, memories, and your surroundings. It can greatly affect your perception of time—in the same way “dream time” always seems different than real time—and it can even impact your sense of identity.
Statistics say that only between .01 and one percent of the population experience a dissociative disorder. Because dissociative disorders aren’t very common, they aren’t very well-known or understood by the general population.
Whether you have been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder or you simply feel disconnected from time to time, it can be very helpful to learn how to deal with dissociation, which starts with learning exactly what it is.
Types of Dissociative Disorders
There are a few different types of dissociative disorders that include:
- Dissociative amnesia involves the inability to recall the details of stressful or traumatic experiences. It can include having no memory at all, but it can also include patchy or incomplete memories.
- Dissociative fugue is a disorder where memory loss is common, and a new identity may even be created as the person has no memory of their past or who they are.
- Depersonalization derealization disorder involves feelings of being detached from one’s body or mental processes. It can feel like you’re watching someone else’s life, and sometimes, you can’t even recognize yourself in the mirror.
- Dissociative identity disorder, which is also referred to as multiple personality disorder, involves the presence of two or more distinct personalities within the same person without any awareness that the other personalities exist.
Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do if you find yourself experiencing altered states of consciousness due to dissociation, regardless of the severity of your symptoms.
5 Tips to Help You with Dissociative Disorders
1. Go to Therapy
The best treatment for dissociation is to go to therapy. An inpatient adult psychiatric program can be especially effective if your symptoms of dissociation are particularly intense, or if they are the result of sexual abuse. It is also extremely effective if your dissociation co-occurs with another disorder, like post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression and anxiety.
Talk therapy can help you work through the challenges you face when dealing with your condition, while stress management can help you identify and learn to deal with triggers that send you into a dissociative state. In some case, pharmaceuticals may be used to help you manage your symptoms.
As is the case with nearly any mental health problem, the type and quality of your therapy may change over time. You may want to consider family treatment, while eye movement desensitization and reprocessing may be able to help you work through traumatic memories.
2. Learn to Ground Yourself
Therapy can help you work through dissociative challenges with the assistance of a licensed professional, but it’s also useful to learn some techniques that enable you to deal with your symptoms when you’re alone. One of the most powerful is to learn how to ground yourself.
Grounding yourself simply means finding ways to be present in the current moment. For some, it literally means taking off your shoes and feeling the grass between your toes. For others, it could mean playing a memory game.
Additional grounding techniques include:
- Breathe in and out deeply
- Recite a poem or a song
- Look for a way to make yourself laugh
- Splash cold water on your face
- Sit with a pet
3. Engage Your Senses
Engaging your senses can be a great way to deal with feelings of dissociation, and it’s a powerful way to ground yourself in the here and now.
During a dissociative experience, try running through all of your senses, one at a time, and labeling everything you smell, see, touch, hear, and taste. Pay attention to whether one sense is being overwhelmed and look for ways to stimulate other senses that aren’t being used. For example, it might include leaving a room with a strong candle or taking a warm bath.
An especially effective way to engage your senses is to practice skin brushing. A natural bristle brush is swept over dry skin, including your legs, arms, and neck. Not only can it promote a sense of body positivity, it can also enhance the immune system, which is often suppressed by traumatic events.
Exercise is an effective way to deal with nearly any mental health problem—not to mention, it’s also a good way to take care of your physical health.
However, exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or running a marathon. There are many easy exercises you can quickly and easily at any time.
Bodyweight training can include chair squats, walking lunges, and lifting light weights. Not only can the sensation of the movements help ground you, so can counting the reps you complete. Additionally, dancing can be a great way to focus on the moment, as can going for a quick bike ride.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
It’s also important to practice compassion and kindness. Learn to appreciate your brain for developing a coping mechanism that helped you deal with a difficult life situation and recognize that recovery takes time. Having downs means you also have ups, and that’s progress you can be proud of.
Treatment for Dissociation
If you think you might have one of the many forms of dissociation, or you have already been diagnosed, Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital can help you understand what you’re going through and provide you with treatment options. Fill out our online form or call us at 225-300-8470 today to learn how we can help you.