I have seen a lot of people beyond heart support who do not know much about dissociation or how to help someone they know to get through such thing!
So I have this guide that I built up to help yourself and others from such thing, THIS IS IN NO WAY SUPPOSED TO SUBSTITUTE ANYTHING, THIS IS SIMPLY DIFFERENT METHODS TO USE IF SOMEONE OR YOURSELF BEGINS TO DISSOCIATE AND ARE UNABLE TO HAVE TOOLS TO GET THEM THROUGH IT. Please talk to a mental health professional if you suffer from dissociation and get treatment for it. Again not meant to substitute but to help people to AVOID doing the improper ways. Do not use this to self diagnose, I highly advise you speak to a professional about it.
Now, what is dissociation? Dissociation can mean a number of things but generally it means the brain backing out when under a form of stress, basically a reaction where you “space out” and are unable to focus in reality and may feel a disconnection from themselves and everything around them. Here is an article and I shall pluck information to show here:
(Link: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociation-overview#1 )
" Dissociation is a break in how your mind handles information. You may feel disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings. It can affect your sense of identity and your perception of time.
The symptoms often go away on their own. It may take hours, days, or weeks. You may need treatment, though, if your dissociation is happening because you’ve had an extremely troubling experience or you have a mental health disorder like schizophrenia."
This is a general explanation as to what dissociation is, as someone who dissociates I feel like my body is almost “floating” and what I touch feel fuzzy and off, like I am cut off from everything around me. But there are subtypes of dissociation, one is derealization, and then we have depersonalization. Both are similar in context but they can differ. Derealization is when you feel a disconnection from everything around you, and depersonalizing is when you feel disconnected from yourself, but both can very much overlap or happen at the same time: think of it like both sides from the same coin, both sides have their differenced but are on the same old coin.
(Link: Depersonalization VS Derealization - What's The Difference? )
" 1. Depersonalization is a feeling of disconnection from yourself.
You feel as if you’re separated from your body, your senses etc. You may feel like a robot, as if your body isn’t your own, that you’re watching the movements of another person. You may also feel a separation from your memories, as if they’re somehow not your own.
“I know I’m here, but I feel as if I’m not in my body. Like I’m watching it happen.”
2. Derealization is a feeling of disconnection from the world around you.
This can feel as if reality is a dream, a TV show, or that it’s fake and could cease to exist at any moment. It can feel like you’re seeing the world from inside a glass bubble. You can feel a disconnection from the people around you, as if they’re actors or robots. Colours , objects, the whole world can look like it’s flat, 2D and unreal.
“I’m afraid that I’m cut off from reality… or even that reality itself is fake.” "
Now both of these can differ from person to person but its good to know about this if you have someone who dissociates.
And now here’s how dissociation can be a symptom of the following:
(Link: Beyond Zoning Out: How to Get Someone Out of a Dissociative State - Royal Life Centers )
" Dissociative disorders can be more specific than just entering a dissociative state frequently. Dissociative disorders involve issues with memory, perception, emotion, behavior and sense of self. There are a few types of dissociative disorders that a person can suffer from. Some dissociative disorders include:
- dissociative amnesia
Dissociative amnesia can be experienced in two subtypes, including psychogenic amnesia and psychogenic fugue. Psychogenic amnesia is “the inability to recall personally significant memories” (“Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders”). Psychogenic fugue is the “memory loss characteristic of amnesia, loss of one’s identity, and fleeing from one’s home environment” (“Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders”).
- dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder)
“the person has two or more distinct personalities that alternate with one another”(“Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders”). “The Sidran Institute notes that a person with dissociative identity disorder ‘feels as if she has within her two or more entities, each with its own way of thinking and remembering about herself and her life. It is important to keep in mind that although these alternate states may feel or appear to be very different, they are all manifestations of a single, whole person’ ” (Wang).
- depersonalization/ derealization disorder
“Depersonalization – experiences of unreality or detachment from one’s mind, self or body. People may feel as if they are outside their bodies and watching events happening to them.
Derealization – experiences of unreality or detachment from one’s surroundings. People may feel as if things and people in the world around them are not real” (Wang)."
Now this is of course just a handful of the many disorders but it can very much help you in understanding dissociation and why it can happen.
Before we begin we need to know about grounding, grounding is a term that means to get out of dissociation, this is good, to achieve grounding is to achieve a safe environment that the brain will think its safe and bring the individual back to the forefront. Grounding also means to be “back on earth” or to feel you are one with the space around you and not in your mental space.
Now with knowing about dissociation and its causes, its time to get into how to help yourself and others who dissociate.
There are a number a ways to do it but first I will tell you how to NOT handle a situation of dissociation:
- Do not belittle or imply disappointment, this can cause the person dissociating a harder time to get out and might bury themselves deeper
- Reacting negatively when they are dissociating, things such as: “Why are you doing this?”, “Can you please stop?”, “Pay attention” and such can feel like a negative reaction and cause your person to fall further into dissociation. Even if its not meant by you it can be taken the wrong way, and this is not in any way to demean any one but to have people acknowledge the consequences of doing such things
- Expect those who dissociate be a fully active human being, or to expect a fully and fast recovery, dissociation comes from trauma and severe stress, avoid the thought of fast recovery because once you believe they are fully out of it you will be harshly corrected. So take it slow and easy and be as open as you can to whoever dissociates.
Now, the DOs to help someone with dissociation is the following:
- Being open and noticing the signs, which are the following: (Link: Beyond Zoning Out: How to Get Someone Out of a Dissociative State - Royal Life Centers ) “spacing out, glazed, blank look/ staring, mind going blank, mind wandering, a sense of the world not being real, watching yourself from seemingly outside of your body, detachment from self or identity, out of body experience, disconnection from your surroundings, lack of sensation, flat affect, monotone voice”
- Learn about grounding skills and how to use them correctly
- Learn about their triggers and avoid saying or doing whatever triggers them
- Achieve a safe kind and open behavior, one where one can feel safe enough to be around and get out of dissociation, dissociation happens when the brain feels unsafe so its key to build that healthy environment.
- Give them space when they need it or ask for it, if you push on with you wanting to be there its likely they can go back to dissociating.
Now ways to help yourself is the following:
- breathing exercises
- Having a willing person/buddy you can be around or call or text when you feel you are about to dissociate
- Comfort spots/safe zones, blankets and warm and soft objects help a lot in achieving grounding. Be sure to have it in easy access areas where its quick and easy to get to.
- Prayer if it helps you get a sense of grounding or peace in mind
- Watching calming or good feeling videos such as cute puppy dog videos or simply something wholesome
- Having a support group you can talk to when feeling such emotions
- Emotional support animals or petting your pet
- Journal your triggers, and if you dont know make a page about it and then list below things you might think it be
Now, there will be of course original/normal dissociation which is a common thing, and please know that there is a difference to the one I described and this one, Here is a link describing it better: https://www.traumaawareness.net/recognizing-dissociation
Some more links you can use and read:
I hope this guide proved useful and I hope this helps understand what people like me go through! I hope you have a good day everyone and stay safe and healthy!!