If you have never experienced disassociation, then the concept may seem odd to you. Or perhaps you’ve experienced it and simply didn’t realize it.
Put simply, disassociation is what happens when we can disconnect ourselves from our sensory experience, thoughts, sense of self, or personal history. When this happens, it can cause feelings of unrealness to manifest, and the experience is extremely alarming. In other cases, you may not even realize you are disassociating, because it can be as mild as feeling like you are on autopilot.
Here are some signs of disassociation to look out for:
1. You ‘blank out’ or forget things that happen during periods of time.
Disassociation can cause you to have a similar experience as going into an autopilot mode. The trouble with that is that you may become so automated that you check out. Due to that, you may forget doing things or forget your experiences entirely, because you were checked out for the experience.
2. When you try to recall events, everything seems blurry.
When someone asks you about something or tries to talk to you about a past moment, you have a difficult time envisioning the past. Moments from the past seem very blurry as though you know you were there, but don’t recall much from being there.
3. You always feel disconnected from your surroundings.
Disassociation can cause you to disconnect (quite literally) from the world around you. Rather than being present at the moment with your surroundings, you are likely to slip away.
4. You are constantly having to force yourself to stay in the moment.
For those that are aware of the fact that they drift, it can be a struggle to stay in the moment. No matter how hard you try, you will likely find that you tend to disconnect, without even trying. It’s almost as if your brain is hardwired to do so because it is.
5. You frequently lose track of time.
Those who disassociate will also tend to lose track of time. The reason for this is that in many ways, you are zoning out. Psychologist Rebecca Semel compares this to an out-of-body experience because disassociation is often a common occurrence after trauma.
6. When you are upset, you have a hard time staying with the moment.
This one also ties into the fact that disassociation is often a common occurrence among trauma survivors. In many ways, it becomes a coping mechanism that causes us to withdraw when we are dealing with something that is emotionally overwhelming. Even in moments that aren’t traumatic moving forward, but that are just difficult to deal with, our tendency to withdraw and disassociate can increase.