What is dissociation?

Dissociation can take different forms such as a state of feeling disconnected from one’s surroundings, or, as laypeople may call it, “being zoned out” or “spacey.” Dissociation can range from getting lost in a daydream to a more severe detachment from physical and emotional awareness. According to the American Psychiatric Association, it is “a disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment.”

Our ITR therapists see that most dissociation comes from experiencing the Instinctual Trauma Response so we consider it a brain-based process. We teach people to use grounding techniques and to practice the ones that work best to bring a person back to the here-and-now so the therapy session can continue. It is common for people that have experienced multiple traumas.

What is Trauma?

During ordinary, day-to-day events, both sides of our brain process and store what we experience. However, when you have a life-threatening experience or you witness another person in such circumstances, your verbal brain can be overwhelmed and your executive function (the ability to think your way out of the trauma) fails. You can no longer organize your experience in a logical way. The parts of the brain that deal with survival take over. If you cannot fight or flee the situation you will go into the freeze. This is when the Instinctual Trauma Response™ (ITR) occurs.

Going into the ITR™ affects your memory for the trauma. You may feel that the fragmented memory is “stuck” in the non-verbal parts of the brain, where there are no words and no sense of time. We call these fragments “mental shrapnel.” These bits and pieces of the trauma then become triggers that intrude into your life at unexpected times. The result can be bewildering and can change how an individual views him/herself, others, and the world at large.

Not everyone who has a trauma will develop PTSD. However, when trauma symptoms interfere with living life to its fullest, we have the help you need in a time-limited program focused just on you.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by either experiencing or witnessing a terrifying, life-threatening event. The resulting symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, internal voices, depression, severe panic or anxiety, and phobias as well as intrusive thoughts about the event.

Some experts prefer to think of PTSD as an “injury” rather than a disorder because the symptoms are caused by an outside force or experience that changes the way the brain organizes information.

What are the symptoms of PTSD? (not a complete list)
Persistent, invasive, or intrusive symptoms
Intrusive, invasive, involuntary distressing memories of the events
Nightmares
Dissociative episodes (flashbacks) during which the individual feels the trauma is happening again
Internal voices, strong thoughts, or command hallucinations
Prolonged emotional distress when faced with triggers of the trauma
Physiological reactions to reminders of the event

Avoidance symptoms
Phobias for people, places, activities, conversations, objects, and situations that may lead to disconcerting thoughts, feelings, or memories of the trauma
Efforts made to avoid anything that bring back distressing memories, feelings, or thoughts of the event
Inability to recall aspects of the trauma

Arousal symptoms:
Irritability
Angry outbursts without apparent provocation
Recklessness
Self-destructive behavior
Difficulty concentrating
Hyper-vigilance
Exaggerated startle response or panic
Sleep problems

Negative mood symptoms:
Negative beliefs about oneself, others, the future, or the world
Distorted thoughts about the trauma that lead to assigning blame for the event to themselves or another person
Constant negative or irritable mood
Inability to feel pleasure
Feeling disconnected from others
Inability to feel positive emotions

What are the effects of PTSD?
The effects of PTSD influence every area of a person’s life. The longer that PTSD goes untreated, the more the problems escalate. This list shows the wide variety of difficulties related to PTSD (in addition to the specific symptoms elsewhere on our site):
Internal voices, command hallucinations
Eating disorders
Paranoia
Difficulty in regulating emotions
Inability to maintain stable relationships
Depression
Difficulty in feeling emotions
Guilt
Substance abuse
Social phobia
Difficulty in maintaining a job
Agoraphobia
Suicidal thoughts or actual suicide attempts

What co-occurring disorders often are diagnosed with PTSD?
As many as 80% of people with PTSD are also diagnosed with at least one other disorder. The most common are:
Major depression
Dysthymia
Bipolar disorders
Anxiety disorders
Adjustment disorders
Substance use disorders
Personality disorders

Many symptoms of these disorders are eliminated by processing trauma. Call us at 833-487-8437 to set up a phone consultation. We know we can help you.