Coping with Dissociation in PTSD Recovery
Dissociation due to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is just one of the symptoms that many of us who have PTSD have to cope with, but it can be a disruptive one. Most people who have survived trauma dissociate to some extent; it's one way that the brain protects us from dealing with frightening events. For some of us, dissociation might be a mild sort of "spacing out" when triggered, but for others, it can be a truly unsettling feeling that is difficult to deal with.
What is Dissociation?
To put it simply, dissociation is an experience where you feel a disconnect from yourself and/or your surroundings (PTSD and Dissociation: What You Need to Know). Dissociation is a normal reaction to traumatic events. When you hear of someone who has suffered a terrible accident but cannot remember parts or all of the details of what happened to them, that's dissociation. It can also be just a feeling of numbness or "checking out" from one's feelings or reality. It may mean that you aren't able to access certain emotions like anger or sadness, or that you don't feel anything in situations that would typically evoke feelings. It can also make you feel like you are observing yourself from a distance in stressful moments.
Sometimes dissociation happens so frequently (especially to those who experienced prolonged trauma) that it interferes with daily life and functioning. It can be disruptive to work or school and can make having meaningful relationships with others difficult. After all, dissociation boils down to the inability to be fully present in one's life, and how can someone who is not present function normally?
Dealing with Dissociation
The good news about dissociation is that there are ways to cope with it, reduce its frequency, and even eliminate it. You are able to change how your body reacts to stressful situations and live mindfully, in the present moment. The following are some ways to deal with dissociation:
- Know your triggers--The key to reducing dissociative episodes is prevention. Dissociation is often triggered by something that is a reminder of the trauma you suffered. Being able to recognize what your triggers are will allow you to avoid them (if possible) or have coping strategies already in place to deal with them.
- Recognize the early warning signs--It may seem like dissociative incidents come from out of nowhere, but there are usually some early warning signs. For some people, it's a feeling of their surroundings getting "fuzzy" around the edges, for others, it's the beginning of feeling disconnected from their surroundings, or even themselves. When you are able to identify the early warning signs, you may be able to catch and deal with dissociative episodes sooner rather than later.
- Use grounding techniques--When you are grounded in the present moment, it's much less likely that you will dissociate. When you feel the early warning signs of dissociation coming on, employ grounding techniques to keep yourself present.
- Ask for support--Dissociation can feel very different than it looks. When you are in a dissociative state, others may not even notice. That's why it's important to let loved ones know what is going on and how they can help you. This includes your psychiatrist or other mental health professional. If they don't know what is occurring, they can't offer you the best help.
Dissociation can be hard, but it is manageable. The key is paying attention to your feelings and taking action when you need to. You are a survivor. You have survived trauma, and that means that you can survive the recovery.
DeLoe, J. (2016, October 13). Coping with Dissociation in PTSD Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2016/10/coping-with-dissociation-in-ptsd-recovery
Author: Jami DeLoe
I am struggling with my father and some people and within myself to deal with and express my emotions and explaining to others that I dont have biopolar or other things. that I am diagonised with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I had a bad Dissociation. how do you think I can make my father understand or how can I talk nicely to him to understand
i like to shut down. I like to close the world out and sleep 24/7. I can't get help. people are so fake and I don't trust anyone. Im tired of living in a world filled with unthoughtful mean people. Can't wait to see if we have a second chance and i can come back as normal as possible.
edna I feel exactly the same as you. I hate it when people say that- please forgive the hypocrisy. I don't know what you're story is but I can tell your beyond exhausted like me. I've been trying to get help for my entire life but it seems like every time I got a little strength and saw a tiny ray of hope, there was another crisis I couldn't handle, another failure, and 10 more cruel people waiting to kick me back down. I know my perception is clouded by my depression, etc...but 'knowing' seems completely useless- I still feel the same. The only way I 'cope' at all is to let myself feel detached and find endless distraction (mostly with tv since I can't focus on anything)
Anyway I hope your ok and we both find some kind of relief very soon
Lostjoe, you are not alone. By describing the condition, you have taken the first step toward treatment and recovery. You have reported a very clear description consistent with a couple of trauma related conditions. Those conditions are treatable. People do recover and regain their ability to live a satisfying life on their own terms.
Because there are very different approaches to each of these conditions, it is important to be assessed by a professional. For example, some people have experienced combat related Traumatic Brain Injury, a treatable physical condition. Others have suffered overwhelming emotional trauma that seems to never fade, another treatable condition. These conditions may coexist and may also cooccur with other medical issues.
Please take the next step and make meet with a physician or counselor either via the VA or through Mental Health Services in your community. VFW and other Veterans organizations can be extremely helpful.
I have TBI and mental health related conditions. Isolation made everything worse. Diagnosis and treatment opened the door. It isn't perfect, but it is Heaven compared to the Hell I was living in.
Reading that article made me think how great it is people take the time out share and post. Emotional Trauma is a hard topic to write on can be extremely confronting to read. The article is very well written i am a trauma therapist and struggle to write sometimes on the subject so great piece of info i will be reading this blog more often......... :) http://www.innerstrengththerapy.com/
Sitting here I lose myself in thoughts. I look down and I'm reminded of every step I took overseas. Every single one runs thru my head. And I look up to the sky and see where I am now. Everything go in on and I just can't believe all that I hav3 seen. The memories are very fresh. I have been to hell. Yet I'm more scared right now in my life than I ever was over there. I'm torn right now. All I know and everything I am feels like it is not real. I am lost by surrounded by people. When I ask for help it seems like I'm saying help me but it's like my voice has gone mute. Life I happening around me faster than combat ever was. I feel like I'm sinking and all I hav3 to do I let go of the rock but my arms won't open. I'm scared fuck I'm terrified. Every step I take feels like a dream. I know where to go what I want and its right in front of me and I'm trying to grab it but my hands won't close.