Dissociation

Posttraumatic stress disorder and psychosis? What do you think of when you hear the term "psychosis?" Most people know that it is a serious mental illness symptom that involves a radical disconnection from objective reality. Not everyone knows, however, that sometimes having posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can lead to psychosis.
Depersonalization is one of the potential dissociative symptoms experienced by a person with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals frequently describe depersonalization as repeated instances of feeling a disconnect between one's thoughts and physical self. Some also describe it as watching the world through a dreamlike state or watching events from outside one's body. It is one of the most challenging to define sensations I have ever experienced. Following are some examples of depersonalization symptoms in PTSD and how I experienced them.
At first, the idea that sexual promiscuity can result from childhood sexual abuse seems illogical. Wouldn't someone who suffered sexual abuse have difficulty creating intimate relationships and work to avoid personal contact? While this can often be the case, a review of the research on childhood sexual abuse (from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, or AAETS) confirms that a large number of survivors engage in promiscuous behaviors, even those who turn away close relationships. Here are some of the reasons why childhood sexual abuse can lead to promiscuity.
My memories lost to dissociation come from having experienced prolonged traumatic abuses as a child. I developed the protective reflex of dissociation at an early age. Dissociation was my response to frightening, harmful, and unpredictable environments. I learned to tune out and shut down mentally while still being able to respond to my surroundings to function in the moment. I don't know this because I remember it. I know this because other people hold memories for me. Here is how I began reclaiming my memories lost to trauma-related dissociation.
Individuals with complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) frequently experience varying levels of dissociative amnesia and they need to learn coping skills for dissociative amnesia in C-PTSD (Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder vs. Simple PTSD). For myself, dissociation was my superpower when I had no other means of coping. However, decades later, certain sights, sounds, smells, stressful experiences or perceived dangers can still trigger my complex PTSD dissociation. Here are some of the coping skills I use for complex PTSD-related dissociative amnesia.
In PTSD recovery, the freeze response can be difficult for some to understand. Have you ever been so terrified, that all you could do is freeze in your tracks, afraid, or even unable, to move? If so, you may have been experiencing the freeze response to fear, which is a common symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The freeze response is a normal, physical response to extreme fear or trauma. However, if you are a trauma survivor who has been diagnosed with PTSD, the freeze response may not be serving you well. The physical response of freezing, feeling paralyzed, or feeling like you are out of your body (dissociation), can be triggered by events that are not at all life-threatening for those of us with PTSD (PTSD and the Freeze Response). In other words, our response doesn't fit the current situation. Dealing with the freeze response can be frustrating, but you can deal with the freeze response in PTSD recovery.     
Three years ago this month I joined the HealthyPlace blogging team by creating this blog. I did so because I wanted to write about symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and what it takes to heal. This was a personal mission: I am a PTSD survivor who struggled for almost 30 years before launching a healing rampage that led me to freedom. And now, while I'm sad to do it, I must say goodbye to Trauma! A PTSD Blog.
For anyone who experiences dissociation as part of the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), (and this includes me during my PTSD years) you know how frustrating, embarrassing and uncontrollable it can be. Reducing dissociation in PTSD is something we all want.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how to stop PTSD anxiety, flashbacks and panic from the perspective of putting mindfulness and intention into action. My colleague, Megan Ross (Trauma Therapy Coordinator at Timberline Knolls) and I had a whole conversation about this and I wanted to share her insights with you. But there was a cliffhanger: Once you understand PTSD symptoms and how mindfulness can help change your physiological experience, the question arises, "What do I do now?" Specifically, what can you do to interrupt or stop flashbacks? Megan Ross and I talked about this too. See what you think about the tips that we covered.
There are a lot of things to do in the mix of healing the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some treatments for PTSD require lots of time, money, support and attention. Those are the "big" moments of recovery that we research, save or borrow for, and place a whole lot of hope in the results we expect. Balancing out all of the necessary big gestures in healing, however, are the small, free, solo actions we take when we're all alone. One of those options is a little thing called a meditation practice which you hear talked about all the time, but probably just as often don't commit to doing faithfully every day.