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Can dissociation ever be a good thing?


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My old therapist said i dissociate. Not like to the point of blacking out or anything, but i go off into my own little world and "borrow" book/ tv/ movie characters when being me is too stressful, or when i feel overwhelmed. Like i think as if im them, kind of like a kid "playing pretend" except i do it to cope. Im probably not making a whole lot of sense here.

 

Anyway, i never thought much of it until i mentioned it to my old therp and she said it's a mild form of dissociation, probably a well-developed coping mechanism from being schizo my whole life and wanting to escape my life. She also said something about people with Borderline being more prone to dissociation but i dont remember exactly what she said. Before meds, i used to interact with other people from that character's world too, like they would talk to me etc but meds wiped that out almost completely. 

 

Thing is, this has saved me from going completely nutty from stress so many times, but is it healthy? She said there was nothing wrong with it as long as it didnt impair my life at all, but i wonder sometimes... am i just running away? Disappearing into my own little world every time life gets to be too much.

 

Any thoughts much appreciated!

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Dissociation often develops as a coping mechanism. In that way it is protective, which it sounds like your tdoc was explaining to you.

Sometimes it becomes too intrusive or disruptive. It can take over and stop you from living life fully. That's when it's a problem. So yes. I do think that it can be a good thing... just not always. And like other forms of good things, it can turn on us and become a stand-alone problem.

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I guess if it doesn't bother you, it might not be all bad. Probably due to my claustrophobia and need to feel in control, dissociation is terrifying for me. At first it was something that happened when I had a panic attack, and then sometimes the dissociation came first and caused me to panic. 

 

Once, I had dissociation for two whole weeks. I was sure I had a brain tumor. It was just awful, being so disconnected, looking on from afar. I'd describe it as playing a videogame. You can see your limbs, and your perspective, but you're not really there. Things look strange, things feel strange. I couldn't walk normally and would bump into things a lot.  I think that may be derealisation more so than dissociation. I don't know, I don't fully understand all the forms of it. 

 

I get it whenever I smoke weed, so I never smoke weed anymore. 

 

I imagine, even if it's not doing harm, it would be better to be able to cope with things without dissociation. I am trying to train myself in mindfulness-based meditation. I'm feeling pretty hopeful that if I can master it, it will help me in a number of ways, helping me feel more present and like things are real, being in the moment etc.

 

I have BPD traits, too so I'm not sure whether most of dissociation has come from that or from my anxiety. Probably a bit of both. 

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A former therapist told me psychosis happens when people are overwhelmed and are taking more that they can take. That somehow psychosis had protected me.

Maybe this also applies to dissociation. Like people dissasociate when there is more than they can take or they face a circumstance which reminds them of some past trauma, thus protecting the person, from reliving the trauma.

Edited by CookieN
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it's a way of coping with otherwise unbearable psychological pain, it has a purpose. at least that's what all the literature tells me. frankly, i find it really embarrassing and it exacerbates my social anxiety tremendously. so in that regard it's not healthy from my vantage point.

Edited by j.evang
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It's my way of cutting off stress and painful feelings. It's good in that way but it can get out of control, like a few times I was driving and didn't know how I got there, or snapped out of it at a green light but I was stopped.

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...but i go off into my own little world and "borrow" book/ tv/ movie characters when being me is too stressful, or when i feel overwhelmed. Like i think as if im them, kind of like a kid "playing pretend" except i do it to cope. Im probably not making a whole lot of sense here.

 

^This is me. I do it all the time, at first I thought I'd just never really grown up, as I've done it for as long as I could remember. Possibly rocking on 15 years now. Do I find it a bad thing? No. Not at all. It has stopped me from going nuts, when things have been tough it's always been a way to get through. I have found that as I've got older I've learnt to fight it because sometimes it happens at inappropriate times. I have a couple of triggers for it, but sometimes it does happen for no reason that I can find.

 

I was treated for it about 3 years ago when I was 18, but essentially there was nothing they could do as it wasn't a side effect of any drug etc, it was just my head and its wiring. I was told that if I felt suicidal I should go back to see them, they gave me a list of anchors to try and off I went to cope with it on my own.

 

Basically it depends on what kind of a person you are. Essentially disassociation isn't a bad thing but it can get out of hand. If it's not effecting your life then I'd see no issue, but if it is bothering you or stopping you from functioning properly then do mention it to your doc and see what they suggest.

 

A few of my anchors are; a comfort object, music and painting my nails. They're designed to drag you back to reality if say you find yourself disassociating and you don't want to. My favourite is a small object I usually keep in my pocket. When you feel yourself going you take it out and look at it, feel it etc, and it reminds you that actually you are in the real world and it's not a dream. Sometimes I keep it in my pocket and just rub my thumb against it if I don't want to get it out in public. (Oh gosh that line sounds SO innapropriate when taken out of context. I really have no idea how else to put that!)

 

I'm sorry, this isn't helping much... but I've had this for over half my life and if you have any questions etc. then I'll happily try to answer them :-)

Edited by Paperskyscraper
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  • 2 months later...

I agree that dissociation is a coping strategy but it is also normal. A degree of dissociation is present in every human being and is necessary for survival. It, like most things, exists on a continum with normal/functional dissociation at one end and chaotic/disorder on the other. Healthy dissociation is what allows our brain to compartmentalize data, and stimuli. If we could not do that we would experience the world as a constant battery of stimuli that could not be sorta and separated out. Sound would become static, vision would be overloaded with a constant feeling of having too much to take in at once, ect. Dissociation allows our brain to distance itself from unimportant stimui and tune the focus in on what is needed in that moment. It is what allows us to focus on the road but still be vaguely aware of what is to our perifrial vision so that we may notice an out of control car. It is what makes it possible to let noise blend into the background and not become a handicap of a distraction. It is how people can complete tasks and do well despite being deep in thought and spacing off. The experiences are being compartmentalized in a healthy way through dissociation.  So yes. It can very good. Life saving good. Like was said above, it only becomes a disorder when it becomes an impairment and causes distress for the sufferer. Really, all good things can become bad things when used in excess.

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