Feeling disconnected? Do you experience dissociation? Is it so intense that you just blink and feel like a week has passed? How long were you away from your body anyway?
Those are difficult questions to answer.
Dissociation starts with feeling disoriented. Then there’s memory loss. I have years in my life that I don’t remember and people I knew on a daily basis whose faces and names I can’t recall now. Looking back, it’s as though there are blank periods amounting to years missing from my life. Looking at the present, I feel as though I can’t control my body while a movie of my life plays before me.
Being disconnected from my reality is something I go through often. Sometimes I am unable to distinguish between my dreams and reality. Dissociation comes as easy to me as breathing. If it does for you, too, this article is for you.
Sometimes, you may slip into an episode and not realize you are dissociating. This is why you need a support system—people to point out that you seem to be spacing out a lot. If you feel you may be someone who often dissociates, see if you recognize these symptoms.
Common symptoms of dissociation include:
- Loss of memory
- A distorted sense of self
- Inability to feel your emotions
- Feeling that people or things around you aren’t real
- Having an out-of-body experience, feeling as though you are watching yourself from afar.
If you experience any of these symptoms, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. There are also lifestyle changes that can help you manage your dissociation better.
In this article, I’ll share some tried and tested tips with you. You may have to try a few different things before you find what works for you. The key is to be consistent and keep trying.
Understand how and why you dissociate
Dissociation is usually a trauma response. It is crucial to understand that there was a time when your mind desperately tried to help you survive, and the only way it could was by dissociating. Dissociation is a coping mechanism that is no longer needed because your situation has changed, but your mind has not yet come to terms with it.
Once you understand the reason and accept your mind’s response, try to identify your triggers. This is how we move on to the next step.
Record your episodes in a journal
Writing in a journal can be particularly helpful for you to understand your emotions, recognize the early signs of a dissociative episode and identify what triggered you. It may also help you come to terms with your past.
Simply write down your everyday experiences, including how you feel about your past.
You can even keep track of your dissociative episodes and later analyze them to identify the type of dissociation you experience.
Invest time and effort in your body
You need to take care of your body. Try to maintain healthy sleep hygiene, eating patterns, and activity levels. The most common trigger of dissociation is stress, so you want to be able to de-stress your body. Eating healthy and working out can help you reduce stress, improve your mood and strengthen your focus.
Practice grounding exercises
Grounding exercises are a simple way to connect yourself to the present during a dissociative episode. Here are some of the grounding techniques I find helpful:
You can start by describing where you are at the moment. Then start listing the things around you in detail, or try to be more specific. This will help you come back to your present. You may ask yourself:
- How many blue items are around me?
- What do I hear?
- What do I smell?
You can also try to engage either one or all of your senses by:
- Trying to describe how your clothes feel against your skin.
- Using essential oils to engage your sense of smell.
- Listening to your surroundings.
- Putting your feet on the ground and focusing on what you feel. Try to describe the texture. Is it a hardwood floor, tiles, or a plush carpet? Just walk around barefoot, absorbing the sensations you feel.
Lastly, if you experience dissociative episodes often, you might want to practice mindfulness. It is a method of living in the present. Though developing mindfulness takes time and effort, you’ll be glad you did so!
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Learn to breathe correctly. Take long and deep breaths to calm yourself.
- Focus on one thing at a time.
- Take a walk in nature and try to engage all of your senses.
- Practice yoga.
Adopt an emotional support animal
Emotional support animals can significantly help to bring you back into the present. Just make sure you can handle the responsibility before you adopt one.
Try a licensed therapist
Find a therapist who is experienced in dealing with trauma. You may ask your doctor to recommend one. The most effective treatment for dissociative disorders is psychotherapy or talk therapy. You’ll learn to walk through your traumatic memories and prevent dissociative episodes. Your therapist can help you replace dissociation as a coping mechanism with healthy ones. The therapist can also help you learn and practice grounding techniques.
If a mental health professional recognizes any other symptoms in you, such as anxiety or depression, ask about medication. Antidepressants can be quite effective at managing depression in some people. Again, you should consult your doctor and be open to trying a few different medications before you find the one that suits you the best.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Javeria Shahid is a clinical psychology student and a writer at Psychology Opinions who is passionate about mental health awareness. She writes about various topics, including how to help people with mental health conditions and their caregivers.
Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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