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Dissociative states are common with those living with unresolved trauma. Entering dissociation is not solely belonging to PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. By definition, dissociation is “the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected.” Someone who has memories and life experiences that are too great to cope with disconnect from the reality of that experience. Painful life experiences send the brain into a traumatic state because the brain is trying to cope. Trauma is especially skilled in creating memory blockages and coping mechanisms to prevent total shut down. Dissociation is one of those mechanisms, creating a separation from reality- “a state of being disconnected”. Differing from a “fugue state” which is a long term “period of loss of awareness of one’s identity, often coupled with flight from one’s usual environment…” dissociation is temporary. The moment is easy to detect. Eyes glaze over to a half mast. Movement suddenly stops. A mouth might hang open slightly like they are staring. Before your eyes, you watch someone disappear, though they sit right in front of you. Dissociated states take people somewhere other than where they are. Sometimes, they take people to someone other than who they are. The terms for these two descriptions are derealization and depersonalization, respectively.

Derealization and depersonalization are two forms of dissociation that are experienced by people in different mental health experiences. During panic attacks, anxiety attacks, mental breakdowns, or just moments of dissociation, one, or both, of these two states can occur. People also experience these kinds of dissociation as a result of taking drugs, most often dissociates, or other kinds. Understanding the difference between the two is necessary for more deeply understanding the experience of those learning to recover and cope with trauma.

Derealization: Have you ever been walking and suddenly felt like you were in a different world? Perhaps you’ve been on your phone and suddenly realized your voice doesn’t sound like your own and when you look at your hands, they don’t feel like your own either. A more common situation is the drive home, from any location, and suddenly finding yourself in your driveway. Feeling detached or separated from your immediate surroundings can be unsettling when you are striving for safety and security.

Depersonalization: All of a sudden, I was looking down at myself. Some people have had the spooky sensation of the “out of body” experience, feeling separated from themselves. At best, this is a spiritual, even metaphysical experience. Many describe something similar when they come back from death. At worst, however, ongoing depersonalization can feel like a bad dream. Feeling outside of yourself, detached from your own being and your own body is a greater feeling of insecurity and uncertainty.

If you are experiencing episodes of dissociation, it could be a sign that your mental health is struggling. Help is available. Hope is possible. The Guest House Ocala is a residential treatment program offering privacy and compassionate care for recovery from traumas, addictions, and related mental health issues. Call us today for information: 1-855-483-7800