The Brain And Dissociation

Exploring The Subconscious


Image Courtesy Of Semanticscholar.

Grace Carman, Broadcast, Photojournalist, Writer

Dissociation, while not uncommon, is not something that is often discussed. Dissociation is disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity. It’s also referred to as ego death. Dissociation can be as mild as daydreaming or zoning out, to severe or more chronic Dissociative Identity Disorder. While the exact cause of dissociation is unclear, it often affects individuals who have experienced some kind of traumatic event. It can occur during or while thinking about a traumatic event. Dissociation can also be a strategy for calming down or coping with stress. For some, the ability to disconnect from their surroundings can serve as a coping mechanism, sometimes to avoid the memories of trauma.
Besides trauma, there are a number of risk factors that can make a person more likely to dissociate or experience depersonalization. Recreational drugs like Ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, as well as cannabis, alcohol, and hallucinogens can give an “out-of-body” experience. Dissociation can also occur with conditions like depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic migraines.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), dissociative disorders that can feature dissociation or depersonalization are: Dissociative amnesia, Depersonalization-derealization disorder and Dissociative identity disorder. Without treatment complications like sleep problems, sexual problems, severe depression, and anxiety disorders can occur.
In extreme cases people with dissociative disorders may exhibit unsafe behavior towards themselves or others during a crisis. People with symptoms like these should be seen in an emergency room. Traumatic flashbacks can be overwhelming and may trigger suicidal thoughts or behavior. People with less urgent symptoms that may indicate a dissociative disorder should see a doctor, psychotherapist, or other mental health specialist.
Dissociative disorders often develop as a way to cope with traumatic events. Dissociative disorders are most common in children who have been subjected to long term abuse or unstable home environments. Adults who experience events like war, natural disasters, or repeated medical procedures may also develop these conditions.
Children who have experienced some sort of traumatic event, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse have an increased risk of developing mental health disorders. If stress or other personal issues are affecting the way someone treats their child, it is important to seek help. If a child has experienced a traumatic event, seeing a mental health professional who can help them recover and adopt healthy coping mechanisms can greatly lower their chances of developing a severe mental disorder later on in life.
While diagnosis of dissociative disorders can be difficult, treatment is available. It is important to note that most treatments for dissociation are based on case studies. Treatment options for dissociative disorders may include psychotherapy, stress management, and treatment for underlying disorders. For some people with dissociative disorders, a safe environment can be enough to trigger some memory recall. A well respected resource for mental health care is NAMI. NAMI’s Missoula location can be contacted by phone at (406)880-1013.