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What's Dissociation?

Posted by Lindenblüte on October 13, 2006, at 19:41:50

Hi All,
so, lately people (my friend, my PT, my oldT, my newT, my pdoc, babblers) have been talking about some of the things I'm experiencing as "dissociation" or I "dissociated" myself from something.

I'm having a really hard time understanding what this dissociation stuff is all about.

Here are some things which I looked up on the internet and found as signs or types or symptoms of dissociation.

depersonalization- is it a kind of dissociation or vice-versa?

Quoted from wikipedia with my own comments in *** "Sufferers of depersonalization feel divorced from both the world and from their own identity and physicality. Oftentimes the person who has experienced depersonalization claims that life "feels like a movie, things seem unreal, or hazy." [citation needed] Also a recognition of self breaks down (hence the name). The person experiencing the disorder may feel like life is a dream or an illusion of sorts. *****yes, I feel this way especially when I'm going through a lot of stress or dredging up some ugliness in therapy*****

The feeling is said to be like being a ghost. No matter how hard the person tries, he/she cannot feel like they are genuinely interacting with the world. They can't seem to perceive themselves as being normal. While the person is struggling to feel everything as normal, there is a part of themself which begs to just give up and stop the struggling. A sufferer from depersonalization can be especially susceptible to suicide, undertaking the suicidal process calmly and easily without real awareness. Simply put, depersonalization is an alteration in the perception or experience of oneself, so that the self is felt to be unreal; the person feels detached from reality and/or their own body or mental processes." *****sometimes I feel like this for a few hours at a time or even a day or two, but something brings me back to my life- usually an obligation I have made to someone.

Anybody else? I bet I'm not the only one who's experienced some feeling of depersonalization. It's not chronic for me, however.

Okay: here's another common topic that pops up on the internet under dissociation: Emotional Detachment. "Emotional detachment, in psychology, can mean two different things. In the first meaning, it refers to an inability to connect with others on an emotional level, as well as a means of coping with anxiety by avoiding certain situations that trigger it; it is often described as "emotional numbing" or dissociation. [skipped the 2nd meaning- not relevant here!].

***** I think I experience my days about 70-99% emotionally detached. It's a little habit I probably learned, um, say when I was a toddler.

then we've got a list of symptoms of depersonalization disorder

"*Loss or change of feeling in body parts:
-A feeling of numbness in one or more body parts. Loss of sensation, as though the body part
does not belong or has become detached from the rest of the body.

*Distorted perceptions of your body:
-A sense that parts of the body are changing in size or shape, or that your body is shrinking. A
feeling that certain body parts do not seem to belong or appear fake or plastic. There might be
a sense that specific body parts have been transplanted from other areas or even from other

-You may feel invisible or transparent, and that others are not able to see you. You may feel as
though you blend in with the environment, or are moving at a different speed than those
around you.

*Detachment from your emotions:
-A lack of emotional response or an inability to feel certain emotions is not uncommon. You
may feel cut off from your emotions or unable to access them at the appropriate times. There
may be a sense that your feelings are dulled or flat, or that they are stored away somewhere
deep inside of you. Many people these days feel the need to push their emotions aside when at
work, just as they feel it necessary to leave their "work self" at the office before going home in the evening. If you are suffering from depersonalization you might feel that your emotions are
no longer within reach, and do not return even when you want or need them to.

*Not recognizing yourself in the mirror or in photographs:
-Being unable to recognize yourself or feeling unfamiliar with the person looking back at you
when you look into a mirror. Feeling that your reflection belongs to someone else, or to you at
a different age than you are now.

*Feelings of unreality or of being a robot:
-A sense that you are functioning automatically or on auto-pilot, or that something or
someone else is controlling your thoughts, feelings, or actions. Many people experience a
feeling of being unreal, or like an actor in a movie. You may have the thought that you are just
"going through the motions" of life, or that there is no emotional connection to your actions
and no thought behind anything you do.

*Floating or out-of-body experiences:
-You may feel as though you are hovering over your body or outside of yourself. You may
have the experience of watching yourself from a distance, or of standing on the sidelines
commenting on or even criticizing your own performance.

*Talking to yourself:
-Having a conversation with yourself out loud, as though you are speaking to a separate
person. Possibly you will even answer yourself out loud as well, taking on the role of two
separate individuals. Everyone has internal dialogues when making a decision, preparing a
speech, or practicing for or rehearsing a future conversation, but during a depersonalization
episode these dialogues are often out loud and take place much more frequently."
*****Sat next to a woman at the bookstore that was having quite the chat with herself. She didn't seemed to be that bothered by it though, so I just turned up my headphones a little louder. I believe that she may have been in acute psychosis, however, judging from other strange mannerisms. but I digress

"A change in an individuals self-awareness, such that they feel detached from their own
experience with the self, the body, and the mind seeming alien. Terms commonly used to
describe the symptoms & sensations of Depersonalization are: unreal, disembodied, divorced
from oneself, apart from everything, unattached, alone, strange, weird, foreign, unfamiliar,
dead, puppet-like, robot-like, having mechanical actions, remote, automated, a spectator,
witnessing ones' own actions as if watching a film or television program, not doing ones own
thinking, observing the flow of ideas in the mind as independent."

"A change in an individuals experience of the environment, where the world around him/her
feels unreal and unfamiliar. Terms commonly used to describe the symptoms an sensations of
Derealization are: spaciness, like looking through a grey veil, a sensory fog, spaced-out, being
trapped in a glass bell jar, in a goldfish bowl, behind glass, withdrawn, feeling cut-off and
distant from immediate surroundings, like being a spectator at some strange and meaningless
game, objects appear diminished in size- flat, dream-like, cartoon like, artificial, objects appear
to be unsolid, as if I'm in a coke bottle viewing the world through the thick bottom."

Okay.... so what? Isn't this just all a big 'ol hodgepodge of symptoms, descriptions, behaviors, and things that most "normal" people experience from time to time? Why is the word "dissociated" used so haphazardly? What does it mean to ME? At what point does Dissociation become a disorder vs. an adaptive response to a stressful situation? Don't we all have different tolerances to stress? Maybe I don't have a high tolerance at all, however, I have gotten this far in my life with these interesting little survival mechanisms- perhaps I will need them for the rest of my life.

I recognize that this is an impossibly long and disorganized post. I'm just interested in starting some kind of dialogue that will help me think about this word "dissociation".

Thanks for your patience,




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