Health Encyclopedia

Dissociation

Dissociation

Dissociation is a person's unconscious attempt at self-protection against an overwhelming and traumatic experience, which 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. But 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. Medicines may also be used as part of treatment.

Last Revised: December 7, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

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