Dissociation is a 50-cent word that means "disconnection," and PTSD can definitely make us feel disconnected from ourselves. Many times when we dissociate we don't realize we are doing it, and it is often brought to our attention by others who see us "in a trance" or "somewhere else."
This disconnection can look different to everyone. Here's some common examples:
- An "out of body experience" as if we are watching ourselves from the outside
- Like we are on "autopilot"
- Intense emotions that feel like they come out of "nowhere"
- Feeling sad or anxious “for no reason"
- Inability to remember what we did for a period of time
- Feeling emotionally or physically numb
- Being told by others that we look like we go into a "trance" or "somewhere else"
- Disconnection from physical surroundings
- Feeling like the world does not feel "real" (or feeling like we are in a dream or in a movie)
- Unintentional dissociation while doing another task, like driving or working
- Not recognizing ourselves in the mirror
Dissociation is generally linked back to trauma. Dissociation can be triggered by external stressors (such as having an argument or losing your job) or internal stressors (such as pain or an intrusive memory). When our dissociation is connected to trauma memories or reminders, it is our brain's way of trying to cope through avoidance.
Dissociation can become a challenge when there is no longer a real threat; this makes it uncertain when another dissociative episode may occur. And dissociative symptoms can make us feel like we are going legit batty.
So first things first: we're not going "crazy." Unfortunately, dissociation is normal for PTSD. That doesn't mean that it feels good, "normal" simply means that it is an expected symptom of PTSD. The good news is that we can learn how to cope with dissociative episodes and recover from them over time. PTSD recovery is not instant, and it is 100% worth it.
Next week on the blog, we'll go over the "how to" when it comes to coping with dissociative episodes.
“If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”
Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSD, The Soldier's Workbook,
or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD
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