How to Deal with Dissociation as a Reaction to Trauma

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Dissociation is an experience where your attention and emotions are disconnected from the present moment. It is like you are here but your emotions and attention are elsewhere. This is an experience and a general concept. In a previous video, I discussed depersonalization. These are dissociative experiences. You may feel disconnected or detached from yourself when you use depersonalization. You feel detached from your environment when you experience derealization. It may seem like you are in another room or that the environment isn’t real.

This is what happens when you are in a car accident and smell the burning rubber on your tires. You will then think that you can smell the rubber every time you ride in a car.

This is an example dissociative experience that you might have following a trauma event. Sometimes, you may be able to dissociate after a trauma event. This could be your mind’s way to protect you from an unsolvable situation.

This happens when you are unable to escape from physical or sexual trauma. Your brain reduces your pain response and numbs you emotionally to make it easier to endure the attack. Your mind may allow you to travel to another place so that you feel like you’re not there.

This type of reaction can help you get through a trauma experience. Sometimes, however, dissociation can be used as a defense mechanism in situations unrelated to trauma.

You can feel disconnected or numb when you are reminded of trauma. Even if you were not aware of it, this trigger could cause you to feel disconnected. It is possible to feel empty all the while not knowing why.

Your body can recall trauma through smells and sounds. However, you may not always understand why your anxiety is. The fragmented memories may flood back when you touch, hear or see them.

Anxiety can also trigger a dissociative state. Let’s suppose you are under too much stress at work. Because of the stress at work, it can be difficult to relate to others. You may withdraw from coworkers because you feel unwelcome and like a stranger.

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What can you do? Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure, as well as eye movement desensitization, reprocessing, are the best options.

Grounding techniques are one way to self-help.
Grounding techniques help you to return your awareness back into the moment when you are safe. It is like refocusing and getting your bearings. Either sensory grounding, or cognitive grounding can be used. Sensory grounding relies on your five senses to bring back the present moment. Cognitive grounding relies on your thoughts to remind you that you are in a safe place.

Sensory grounding exercises
The 5-4-2-3-1 sensory exercise.
Grounding scents can help bring your attention back into the present.
Keep a small, sensory-grounding object in your bag.
Apply cold water to your neck and face.

Cognitive grounding exercises:
Be confident in your safety.
Be aware of the time and place you are in.
Recite a comforting quote or saying.
Use coping statements such as “I can handle this”, “My situation is much better now, and these feelings will pass,” etc.

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Disclaimer: The information contained on this channel is intended for education purposes only and does not constitute specific or personal medical advice. The videos and the answers to questions/comments do not create a doctor-patient relationship. These videos may be helpful for you if you are a patient of your own doctor.

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