Trauma is a life-threatening stressful occurrence that is experienced as devastating to a person and results in stored dysfunctionality within the brain. According to Wheeler (), trauma affects all dimensions of a person by disconnecting and dysregulating them emotionally, physiologically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually. Dissociation has been related to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since it is a mental process where individuals disconnect from their memories, feelings, and thoughts. Cernis (2020) add that dissociation is transdiagnostic experiences that are common and clinically relevant. Anxiety, panic disorder, depression, worry, and sleep disturbances are related to dissociation. The paper discusses dissociation phenomena as a result of trauma and stress.
Trauma and stress are the key causes of dissociation. An individual who encounters a distressing event experience dissociation throughout the occurrence itself or in the coming time since such an event severely interrupts one’s consciousness. The dissociation event makes one detached from the happenings as if one is watching these events on television. Consequently, a person with dissociation disorder is easily triggered by the current event to relate to the past trauma, which is not hallucinations or delusions. Dissociation is unconscious, which affects the normal functioning of mental processes and the ordinary incorporation of conscious alertness (Wheeler, 2022). Consequentially, the dimensions of memory are fragmented.
The symptoms of dissociation are either positive or negative. Wheeler (2022) claims that positive symptoms are undesired additions to mental activity, such as recurrences, while negative symptoms are deficits like memory problems or the inability to control one’s body parts. The major symptoms of the dissociative disorder are feeling detached from oneself, issues in handling intense emotions, and depression and anxiety. Similarly, a person feels disconnected from the real world, confusion, significant memory delays, and memory problems that have no medical conditions. Importantly, dissociation protects a person from full mindfulness of the trauma and lessens troubling feelings. Thus, the development of dissociation disorder is exposure to trauma at an early age and interfamilial engagement.
Different types of dissociative disorder include dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, dissociative fugue, and depersonalization disorder. According to Wheeler (2022) and Loewenstein (2018), dissociative amnesia arises when an individual cannot recall the particulars of a distressing occasion although they have a memory loss. Dissociative identity disorder is a dissociation condition where a person has various personality state that affects their behavior, is unaware of these personalities, and has memory lapses. Depersonalization disorder is characterized by detachment from one’s feelings and thoughts (Wheeler, 2022). Lastly, dissociative fugue occurs when a person cannot remember their identity without knowing and cannot recall their past.
Dissociative disorder occurs due to chronic trauma during one’s childhood. For instance, repeated sexual, emotional, or physical abuse during childhood, especially before one reaches six years, causes dissociative disorder (Loewenstein, 2018). Likewise, unpredictable family environments can also make a child disengage from reality when stressed. Loewenstein (2018) argues that Failure to treat dissociative disorder causes sexual problems, anxiety disorders, self-harm, eating disorders, and life difficulties like job loss. Diagnosing dissociative disorder is complex since its symptoms are common to other mental conditions. Therefore, the treatment of this disorder depends on various options such as psychiatric drugs like barbiturates, a secure environment to ensure that patients feel safe and relaxed, psychotherapy, stress management, and hypnosis. These therapies result in reduced suicide and self-destructive conduct that decreases inpatient admissions.
Cernis, E., Evans, R., Ehlers, A., & Freeman, D. (2021). Dissociation in relation to other mental health conditions: An exploration using network analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 136, 460-467.
Loewenstein, R. J. (2018). Dissociation debates: Everything you know is wrong. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 20(3), 229-242.
Wheeler, K. (2022). Psychotherapy for the advanced practice psychiatric nurse: A how-to guide for evidence-based practice. Springer Publishing Company.