What is dissociation?


Author bio

Page last updated: 22/11/2022

What is dissociation?

In this brief blog, we will be discussing the meaning of dissociation, what it feels like when you are dissociating, and the facts about dissociation.

What is the definition of dissociation?

Dissociation is the feeling of getting away from reality. People with this condition tend to leave from the world we know and somewhat love. 

These people can feel that they have lost their sense of perceiving real objects and perceiving themselves.

This allows them to feel nothing when they are faced with a situation in reality.

For instance, a woman who was touched by her father is not able to feel anymore because the emotional damage has been enough.

As you can see, this can be distressing if taken in severe forms. 

However, in mild forms, this kind of feeling is a normal coping mechanism.

What are the signs and symptoms of dissociation?

The signs and symptoms of dissociation focus on the feeling that you can’t remember much about your reality.

You will feel that everything that is happening in reality is not perceived or sensed by you.

You may even observe something else during this mental state which is the following signs and symptoms:

  • Have an out-of-body encounter
  • Feel like you are another person at different times
  • Feel like your heart is racing or you’re dizzy
  • Feel emotional numbness or detached from the world and yourself
  • Sensing little or no pain

Other feelings that you can get from dissociation are the following:

  • Have a disoriented sense of time
  • Not aware of how you got somewhere
  • Have tunnel vision
  • Hear voices inside you
  • Have vivid flashbacks that feel real
  • Becoming someone that can’t move
  • Get immersed in a fantasy world that seems real

You can learn more about dissociation by buying this book on this website.

When will I get dissociative?

You can get dissociative in the following contexts that will be discussed further. 

  • For most people, dissociation is a coping mechanism that happens after a problem and this kind of state is uncontrollable. This kind of state can be a response to a present trauma or abuse even if it was still only one time. 
  • Some people engage in dissociation as a religious ritual or spiritual practice.
  • Dissociation may be a symptom of one or more of these psychological disorders which are post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder.
  • You may even yourself dissociating after a shot of alcohol or as a side effect of medication.
What is dissociation?

What is the definition of dissociative disorders?

Dissociative disorder is a psychological disorder that comes from dissociative symptoms that last for a long time. Here are some of the prolonged dissociation symptoms in dissociative disorder.

  • Amnesia or memory loss
  • Depersonalisation 
  • Derealisation 
  • Identity confusion 
  • Identity alteration 
  • Loss of feeling or numbness.
  • Losing management of your body movements.

You can have these kinds of symptoms at infrequent times which can make it distressing if you are aware that you don’t know what happened at a specific time.

This explains the occurrence of a dissociative episode which is part of dissociative disorders.

You can learn more about these kinds of psychological disorders by buying this book on this website.

The different types of dissociative disorders in psychological abnormality

There are different psychological disorders that are classified under the realm of dissociative disorders.

There is also information that you could have this kind of disorder without the appearance of all of the dissociative symptoms. 

Dissociative disorders have been controversy to mental health professionals since most cases don’t really count as these kinds of disorders and some patients, especially criminals, will fake the symptoms of this disorder just to get a free pass from legal consequences. Here are some of these kinds of disorders discussed below.

Dissociative amnesia as a dissociative disorder

As stated in its name, dissociative amnesia can make you less likely to remember something that may have happened to you.

This kind of disorder can be caused by a traumatic event but not all people with this disorder have traumatic events in their life.

With the severe form of dissociative amnesia, you may have difficulty remembering the following:

  • who you are
  • what happened to you before or now
  • how you felt at the event of the trauma.

Dissociative amnesia is not the same as the occasional forgetness we experience but this is a memory lapse.

This means that you can’t get through the lost memories in the present but these lacking memories are not completely lost.

Even if you have dissociative amnesia, you are still able to function properly in some areas in life.

After all, you can still remember some aspects of your life which can let you function well with your loved ones. 

However, you can still have some snippets of the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks.

You may even have the subtype of dissociative amnesia which is called dissociative fugue. 

Dissociative fugue is a psychological disorder where the person will go on an unplanned trip and after this trip, he or she will not remember the trip or who they really are.

People with this kind of psychological disorder are not going on trips with the purpose of leaving the traumatic event behind.

Dissociative identity disorder as part of the dissociative disorders

Dissociative identity disorder was once called multiple personality disorder but this term was declined due to some misconceptions about the former term of this psychological disorder.

A person with this kind of psychological disorder will be exhibiting 2 or more separate identities. 

These different identities revealed in a person will take over at separate times, especially at times of inconvenience.

Affected people with dissociative identity disorder will have different behaviours every time which can confuse the people who are close to them. 

People with DID can even forget some pieces of memories that may have happened during the control of one of the identities.

Some people with this psychological disorder are aware of their separate identities while others aren’t aware and when they are aware, they are more likely to panic.

Psychological researchers are still flabbergasted and conflicted about the existence of DID.

Most people would think that people with this psychological disorder have alternate identities but psychologists think that these patients only have one identity but it was broken into fragments which makes the person dysfunctional. 

Psychologists have believed that people had their DID due to a traumatic experience that may have brought them to engage in extreme dissociation.

The traumatic event has caused the person to rely on separate identities to protect the person from the effects of the event and this usually happens in the early years. 

When the person grows up, he or she is stuck to the notion that they have created one identity but this is broken when other people observe that they show different behaviours at different times.

You can learn more about dissociative identity disorder by buying this book on this website.

Depersonalization disorder as part of dissociative disorders

People with depersonalization disorder don’t really seem to have psychological disorders but these people would feel that they feel foreign to their bodies.

These people are more likely to report that they are looking out on their bodies. 

Depersonalization disorder tends to be prevalent among adolescents but these teenagers tend to have this disorder tapered off about age 20.

Other common symptoms of this psychological disorder are when the person is having difficulty concentrating and remembering. 

The person with depersonalization disorder will feel like they have no control over their bodies and may feel spaced out.

Time is slowed down or stopped when these people are undergoing this psychological disorder. 

In severe cases of depersonalization disorder, these people would not know themselves in a mirror.

Causes of the engagement with dissociation

The following are causes to why some people dissociate in their lives whether the normal dissociation or abnormal dissociation.

  • Trauma. People who dissociate find this as a great method to get away from the world when something distressing has happened and this is termed by psychologists as peritraumatic dissociation. Studies have shown that the mind uses this kind of strategy to let it distract itself from the trauma.

Peritraumatic dissociation can manifest in people when they have to go through the following traumatic events:

  • Sexual or physical attack
  • Childhood abuse
  • Combat
  • Torture or kidnapping
  • Motor vehicle critical incidents
  • Natural calamities

When you keep having traumatic events repeatedly, you are at risk of developing any of the dissociative disorders.

You may get away from your normal self, forget important things, and have separate selves that can confuse you and others.

You can learn more about the impact of traumatic events by buying this book on this website.

  • Hypnosis. When you let your mind wander or what others call daydreaming, your brain is in the process of an automatic state. This means that you are no longer conscious of your body. Several types of hypnotic techniques can bring you into several dissociative states. Experienced professionals may use this kind of technique to treat pain, addictive behaviours, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Certain psychotropic drugs. You can have a dissociative state thanks to several drugs that can affect your psychological state. Research shows that people who take psychotropic medications such as psilocybin and LSD report losing their sense of identity in a brief moment of time. You can learn more about the effects of these kinds of medications by buying this book here.
  • Meditation. The activity of meditation makes people go into a dissociative state. This is backed up by reports from experts of these exercises who feel their lose themselves when they engage in these activities.

Psychological interventions that treat dissociation

Medications are not used to treat dissociation since this tends to worsen symptoms.

Your mental health care provider will prescribe psychological treatments for you based on the severity of symptoms.

Your psychological intervention/s may contain the following:

Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy can help you know about the cause of your dissociation.

The end goal of this kind of treatment is to help you control your symptoms of this kind of condition.

The different forms of psychotherapy that are used for people who are suffering from dissociation are the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy. This kind of therapy will help you prevent unhealthy behaviours that may cause dissociation.
  • Hypnotherapy. This kind of therapy can help you process your inner state to minimize dissociation. This kind of therapy should only be handled by a trained and experienced mental health professional specialising in dissociative disorders.
  • Phasic trauma intervention. The phasic trauma intervention helps you get rid of your suicidal behaviours that may be associated with your dissociative disorder. This will be followed in the therapist’s inquiry about your traumatic memories that may have caused this kind of condition.
  • Family support treatment. Support from a loved one can help you avoid dissociation and find social encounters more fulfilling.
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy or dialecticism. Dialectical behaviour therapy can help you control your emotions about a traumatic event which may minimize your tendency to dissociate. 
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or trauma intervention. EMDR can help you minimize your intense emotions during a traumatic event which can make you dissociate through visual exercises. This therapy has also been helpful to people who have dissociative disorders comorbid with PTSD which is a disturbing combination.


In this brief blog, we have discussed the meaning of dissociation, what it feels like when you are dissociating, and the facts about dissociation.

If you have any queries about dissociation, please let us know and we will gladly answer your queries.

FAQs: What is dissociation?

What is a fugue state?

A fugue state is when an individual may go on an unexpected trip and arrive at an unfamiliar place with a lack of memory on how the person reached the place.

Patients with this state tend to be found in very distant places from their homes which makes psychologists bewildered on how they were able to survive to go through that trip.

These patients also have different identities when they return to their families.

What causes a fugue state?

A fugue state is caused by stress, trauma, and other distressing experiences.

This tends to happen to people who are susceptible to a fugue state.

Trauma can make these affected people numb to the point of going on a trip just to let the numbness flow.

What is the most severe dissociative disorder?

The most severe dissociative disorder is dissociative identity disorder.

This is because having multiple identities can create distress upon the individual or others.

Also, this kind of disorder isn’t easily treated and it usually takes a lifetime to treat this disorder.

How common are dissociative disorders?

Dissociative disorders are common by only 2% of the population.

This implies that dissociative disorders aren’t that common in susceptible patients.

Also, this kind of disorder is still controversial in the psychological community since there is the various stigma surrounding this class of disorders. 

What is defensive dissociation?

Defensive dissociation is the use of dissociation as a defence mechanism for problems in life.

Dissociation is a defence mechanism used by people when they have gone through trauma.

This can help them cope in the short term but when taken to the long term, they will suffer from dissociative disorders.


BetterHealth Channel. Dissociation and dissociative disorders.

NHS. Dissociative disorders.

Rethink Mental Illness. Dissociation and dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Sunrise House. What Is Dissociative Disorder?.

Verywellmind. What Is Dissociation?.

WebMD. What Is Dissociation?.

Wikipedia. Dissociation (psychology).