Frequently Asked Questions About Disassociation

Medical advancement in our society has granted humanity to prolong our life span and improve our healthcare system. Not long ago when we deemed mental health illnesses and personality disorders as incurable and unmanageable.

Nowadays, there are numerous options offered by various mental health institutions. These treatments could alleviate existing symptoms of depression, anxiety, negative emotions, and other destructive behaviors.


One of these technological advancements includes transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS offers a non-invasive procedure in treating major depressive disorder.

During the process, the patient receives magnetic energy pulses through an electromagnetic coil placed on your scalp. The repetitive magnetic stimulation of your nerve cells can help in decreasing depressive symptoms. It’s really cool to think about the magnetic pulsations going in your brain and treating your nerves. 

Recent trials have shown how TMS can improve conditions for dissociative identity disorder. Dissociation is a mental process. It makes a person feel disconnected from their feelings, thoughts, memories, or, sometimes, sense of identity.

Some of the symptoms of dissociation may include: 

  • sudden shifts of mood, 
  • having memory problems not related to physical injuries, and
  •  having significant lapses in memory. 

There are four main types of dissociative disorder which including:

  • Dissociative amnesia
  • Dissociative fugue
  • Depersonalization disorder
  • Dissociate identity disorder

Causes of dissociation, according to mental health professionals, may be related to underlying traumatic childhood experiences. These traumatic events may include repeated physical or sexual abuse or even emotional ones. Dissociation helps the individual in coping and tolerating the trauma, which is difficult to bear.

People who experience dissociation may feel detached from reality, where it’s as if they are watching themselves on television. It may feel like staring long enough on something. But in fact, it is actually drifting away along with the consciousness. 

If you would like to know more about dissociation and its psychology, we have listed you frequently asked questions about it.

What happens when you dissociate?

When you dissociate, you may feel disconnected from your body. This phenomenon is also known as depersonalization. Since the mind and body are not working in sync, you may discover that you’re looking at your body without any strong attachment to it.

You may also feel disconnected from the world around you (derealization) and the events that are currently taking place. During a dissociation episode, you may also find it hard to remember your sense of self and the components that make up your identity.

What is an example of dissociation?

Most people experience dissociation at one point in their lives. Whenever you daydream or zone out, mild dissociation takes place. You also dissociate when you’re fully absorbed in a book or a movie. However, dissociation can become unhealthy and destructive. At this point, it can classify as a dissociative disorder that requires medical intervention.

How is dissociation treated?

Most doctors would recommend a mix of psychotherapy and medication to treat dissociative disorders. Your therapist will work with you to form healthy coping strategies that don’t rely on escaping reality. They may teach stress management techniques to help you stay grounded in response to specific triggers.

If needed, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you control the symptoms of related mental health conditions.

What does dissociate mean in psychology?

Dissociation is a process where a person becomes disconnected from their thoughts, memories, feelings, behavior, and sense of self. Although most people experience mild dissociative episodes, individuals with dissociative disorders should seek professional treatment.

How do you know if someone is dissociating?

You might notice that their eyes tend to glazed over as if they were someplace else. It can also be a manifestation if they have trouble concentrating. A person experiencing dissociation may exhibit sudden and extreme emotions to an event. They may also use markedly different gestures or ways of speaking than their usual behavior.

What triggers dissociation?

It varies per person. Since childhood trauma is a common cause of dissociative disorders, any facet of that experience can cause a person to dissociate. Dissociation may also develop in response to stress. In some cases, dissociation may arise as a symptom of preexisting mental disorders such as

  1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  2. Depression
  3. Borderline personality disorder
  4. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

What does dissociation look like in therapy?

When a patient describes recurring out-of-body experiences, it may be a sign of dissociation. They might also exhibit symptoms of amnesia in response to a traumatic event. Therapists should be attuned to these indicators of derealization and depersonalization.


Is dissociating a symptom of anxiety?

It’s possible. A person might dissociate to cope with overwhelming emotions that they cannot handle. Using dissociation to cope with anxiety can work only in the short-term. Coping mechanisms based on avoidance come with negative long-term ramifications. It is necessary to address the root of the problem and form healthy coping strategies.

What is emotional dissociation?

Emotional dissociation happens when someone who survived a traumatic experience suppresses their emotions. Often, it is their means to cope. They may forcefully remove themselves from a situation that mimics their trauma or take extreme steps to avoid similar triggers. However, avoidance coping is only temporarily useful in dealing with trauma.

What is shutdown dissociation?

It is a form of dissociation when a person shuts down in response to a threat that they perceive as inescapable. Instead of the typical fight or flight scenario, a person’s “fright” takes over. As a result, their perpetual and behavioral process partially or entirely shut down.

They may experience sensory loss and motor paralysis or lose consciousness in the process. Shutdown dissociation is common in victims of sexual trauma and extreme violence.

Can you recover from dissociation?

Yes. Given timely medical intervention, you can recover from a dissociative disorder. The treatment may not eliminate dissociation but will help you cope when you find yourself spacing out. Over time, it’s possible to reduce the impact of such episodes until your condition becomes manageable.

How long does dissociation last?

It differs per person. Most mild dissociation episodes usually last for hours or less. However, a person with a dissociative disorder can experience symptoms for years.

Is dissociation like zoning out?

Zoning out is a mild form of dissociation. When you zone out, you might find yourself daydreaming or thinking of something you’d rather be doing. In most cases, zoning out means that your brain is on autopilot, which means the task at hand may not require your full attention.

What happens to the brain when you dissociate?

A study says that dissociation begins when nerve cells in the posteromedial cortex (PMC) fire synchronously. The PMC is the region in the brain responsible for self-processing and self-awareness. It is also believed that dissociation interferes with how the brain processes a salient event. In this case, it results in memory fragmentation.

Is dissociation a symptom of PTSD?

In most cases, yes. Dissociative disorders usually stem from childhood trauma. This condition makes individuals dissociate in response to future traumatic experiences. For a person with dissociation and PTSD, the symptoms of one may worsen the other and interfere with treatment.


TMS provides us with a new approach in treating depressive disorders and alleviate mood symptoms. Although TMS does not necessarily cure mental health conditions, it provides an alternative procedure for treatment. 


Patients who previously received both psychotherapy and medication but have no adequate response from these are good TMS candidates. Sometimes the effect of medical therapy can be too intense for the client. In these cases, TMS can substitute. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is scientifically safe and effective.

In treating dissociative symptoms, significant lifestyle changes should work along with TMS. The dissociation of a person who experienced past traumatic events may be neurotic and disrupt their social lives.

Instead of naturally dealing with these experiences, an individual may unconsciously bury unpleasant memories. This behavior is not emotionally and mentally functional. 

Every person’s mental health treatment must be customizable. Some people can achieve progress in alleviating their symptoms through attending therapy and following a medication schedule. For some, it is a combination of both of these treatments. While for others, these procedures are exhaustive and only give them a sense of hopelessness. 

Dissociation impacts your social function negatively. It is important to always seek help. Transcranial magnetic stimulation might be the treatment you needed. Talk to your therapist and psychiatrist if certain modifications to your current daily routine may help.