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What is Dissociation?

A lot of people experience dissociation.

When someone dissociates, they feel disconnected from themselves and the world around them. It is a way the mind copes with too much stress, such as a traumatic event.  It is a natural response to trauma that cannot be controlled. Dissociation can be a response to either a single traumatic event or ongoing trauma such as domestic abuse, war or sexual abuse.

You might experience dissociation as a symptom of a mental health problem, for example post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety.

How will I know if I am dissociating?

  • You may feel numb, cut off, lost or like you are in a fog,
  • Your body may feel tired, cold or slow,
  • Your thoughts may feel disconnected, unreal or dreamlike,
  • You may feel that you are watching yourself from outside your body.

How to manage dissociation

It may be useful to keep something that helps you to feel more grounded or present, for example something that increases your senses. Some ideas for these could be a stress ball, smelling salts, music, pictures, hand cream or a photo of someone who cares for you.

When we get frightened, we breathe too quickly and shallowly. This causes dizziness, shakiness and more panic. Breathing slowly and deeply will stop the panic. The rhythm of breathing slowly can help to soothe you. Breathe deeply; put your hand just above your navel and inhale and exhale so that your hand gets pushed up and down. Count slowly to five as you breathe. Look around you, notice sounds and smells and textures, try and feel the ground beneath your feet, stand up straight, try to relax your hands and neck. (

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