Dissociation

Dissociation is a person's unconscious attempt at self-protection against an overwhelming and traumatic experience, such as may result from severe and prolonged maltreatment, sexual abuse, and/or neglect during childhood. The mind separates itself from an event or the environment so it can maintain some degree of order and sense.

Dissociation responses vary by individual. However, some common dissociation experiences include:

  • Feelings of "standing outside" oneself or "watching from a distance" during a traumatic event.
  • Developing significant personality changes and problems with mental processes.
  • Incomplete or lack of memory of traumatic events.
  • Appearing to have no sense of emotion regarding traumatic events.

Dissociation that does not resolve on its own or is causing behavior or mental health problems requires professional counseling. Medications may also be used as part of treatment.

Last Updated: December 29, 2008

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics

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