I am a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, so I can work with PTSD and other traumas. I have a special passion in helping people with dissociative disorders, including dissociate identity disorder which was once called multiple personality disorder. Dissociative disorders can cause chaos in people’s lives and make everyday life that much more difficult.
Dissociation, in a nutshell, is losing present-moment awareness. Daydreaming is an example of mild dissociation. While daydreaming, a person is somewhere else in their head and unaware of their body or what is going on around them. If you’ve ever driven home from work and realized that you don’t remember the drive, that’s dissociation, too. Getting “lost” in a book, movie, or video game is another example of dissociation. A surgeon whose marriage is rocky and is worried about divorce puts those worries aside during a surgery. This, too, is an example of dissociation. We tend to call it “compartmentalizing.” These are all examples of dissociation which is considered normal. On the far end of the spectrum, where it is a clinical diagnosis, is dissociative identity disorder. And in between are dissociative amnesia and depersonalization/derealization disorder.
When dissociation is happening outside of a person’s control, it is on the clinical end of the spectrum. This kind of dissociation doesn’t just happen. It is a sign of past trauma. While something like a natural disaster can bring on dissociation in adults, in the vast majority of cases, dissociation results from severe, repeated, and prolonged abuse and/or neglect in childhood. Ninety percent of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder, for example, have such a history.
If you are reading this and thinking, “Wait a minute! I think I dissociate but I don’t have any memories of abuse,” there are a couple of possible explanations. One is that you suffered the abuse or neglect at such a young age you simply don’t have memories that you can recount. The other is that the dissociation has acted to hide those terrible memories from you (think about compartmentalization) so you could continue to function in the world in spite of what was unbearable.
If you have a dissociative disorder, I want you to know something: as much as it may be complicating your life in the present, at one time it was a survival mechanism. It literally saved your life. You may not believe me right now, but I can explain why I say this when we meet in a session.
The following are some symptoms of dissociation:
- Seeming to observe yourself from outside your body
- A feeling like things aren’t “real”
- A loss of knowledge about who you are
- A loss of memory
- A loss of time
If you think you might have a dissociative disorder, call/text me at (816) 226-4678.