Therapy Help for Dissociation problems, Dissociative Identity Disorder, D.I.D. with Psychotherapy, Lifespan Integration at 1066 Therapy
covering East Sussex, Battle, Hastings, Bexhill, Rye, Heathfield, Hailsham, Eastbourne, Crowborough, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Ashford and Kent.
What is dissociation?
Dissociation is a completely natural response to overwhelming events, such as abuse or trauma. We are all capable of dissociating in response to being emotionally overwhelmed. Such as in extremely stressful situations – bad accidents, assaults, war, natural disasters, etc. Events where we sense that we cannot protect ourselves and we cannot control what is happening. It is basically ‘taking mental flight’ when physical flight, or fighting back, isn’t possible for us. We don’t choose to do it. Our brain does it for us automatically. We ‘zone out’ to help protect our mind from the overwhelming nature of the event(s).
It’s a defence
Dissociation is a protective function. In therapy we call it a defence mechanism. Both adults and children dissociate during extremely stressful events. However, dissociation problems in adulthood are mostly connected to having had adverse childhood experiences. And it’s a clever thing to do when a child is growing up in a very stressful environment. For instance, where parents are having lots of rows, or they have their own issues with drink or drugs. Or perhaps the parents (or other close family member) are neglecting or abusing the child somehow. Such situations naturally trigger our survival response of fight/flight/freeze. However, a child cannot run away or fight back, so the only option left is to freeze and ‘shut down’. We disconnect from our bodily feelings, thoughts, and emotions and we just ‘go numb’.
While this is useful when we are very young, it becomes a problem later in life when our ‘default’ response to any challenging situation is to ‘zone out’. We freeze and ‘shut down’: we go quiet and hope it’s all over quickly. This is even when standing up for ourselves and being assertive (healthy fight response), or just simply leaving the situation (flight) would be more adaptive. This response can leave us vulnerable to further exploitation. For instance, being bullied, repeat victimisation etc. Sometimes we can get ‘stuck’ in a freeze/shut down state and this becomes our ‘normal’ way of being. However, feeling numb and shut down on a regular basis is really unpleasant and uncomfortable in and of itself.
Common symptoms of dissociation include:
- Zoning out and shutting down on days off work
- Having little or no memory of important life events
- Friends often accuse us of not listening or of being ‘spaced out’
- Feeling spacey, foggy, or floaty mentally
- Forgetting important things.
- Also regularly forgetting things such as where we’ve parked the car etc.
- Having delayed reactions – we rarely say or do what we wanted to at the time we needed to
- Unable to think clearly when feeling stressed.
Less common symptoms
- Feeling like we are watching our life instead of taking part
- Our surroundings may seem ‘foggy’ or unreal sometimes
- Feeling like we are outside of our own body, watching ourselves
Relatively rare symptoms – usually associated with ‘full blown’ Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.)
- Finding things we have bought, or done, and having no memory of doing either
- Going to work and having no memory of what we’ve done all day when we get home
- Travelling to places and having no memory of doing so
- People close to us might point out that we talk in different voice(s) sometimes
- They may also say that we seem like two (or more) different people sometimes
Of course, some of those problems can happen to anyone under a lot of stress. And people with dissociation problems don’t often have all of those symptoms. These are also not complete lists. They are just a guide.
Another symptom of dissociation problems is called dissociative amnesia. Briefly, this is where we can ‘forget’ part or all of a single event or events due to emotional overwhelm. The missing memories can return though, for all sorts of reasons. Studies show that many people in therapy started therapy because they suddenly remembered previously forgotten experiences. Similarly, various studies show that between 19 and 38% of people in therapy have complete memory loss of emotionally significant childhood events. However, the memories tend to return during therapy as the person feels relatively safe and becomes psychologically stronger.
Whatever symptoms we have, one thing that is common to everyone with dissociation is that we lack an integrated personality. We were unable to develop an integrated personality because of the very stressful environment we were in. And/or because of the nature of the events that we were experiencing. Our personality is instead ‘fragmented’, made up of various aspects or parts or alters. Of course, even those with an integrated personality have different sides or parts to their personality. But when we have dissociation problems we have a very different internal experience. The difficulty is, we don’t usually know we are dissociative because how we feel inside is our ‘normal’.
It is thought that the majority of people with dissociation problems are co-conscious. What that means is that we are aware of almost everything we say or do, we just don’t have full ‘executive’ control over all of it. As a result, we may question (inside) why we just said or did what we said or did. Or we may not question it ourselves, but someone else brings our attention to it and we cannot explain our words or actions. Unfortunately, those with more severe dissociation problems aren’t always co-conscious. They can be unaware of a lot of their speech and behaviours.
I have trained in Lifespan Integration which, as the name suggests, is especially useful for people with dissociation problems. The therapy promotes integration. It is able to do this relatively quickly – much quicker than traditional psychotherapy which may take years of weekly sessions to achieve the same results. That said, there is no ‘quick fix’ for dissociative issues. We need to repair what went wrong and work together to build a more solid and coherent sense of self.
I have trained in other therapy models designed to help abuse and trauma too. We usually make the decision of the best course of action during the initial consultation.
Call me now on 07722783490 or 01424 772392 to book your free 30 minute initial consultation.