When it comes to treating any issues of mental health or addiction, it is important to take an individualized and multi-faceted approach. After all, no two individuals have the exact same disorder. Even if they have similar symptoms and the same diagnosis, variables, and external factors make everyone’s situation unique. This is the same for individuals who struggle with dissociation. The best way to treat dissociation is via a comprehensive recovery plan. Moreover, this plan should always have an “evidence-based foundation” that includes psychotherapy.
What Exactly Is Dissociation?
Many people get dissociation and disassociation confused when it comes to mental health. They are actually quite different issues, though they do both exist in the mental health realm. Disassociation has to do with a very intentional application to distance oneself from a specific event (in psychology, it is often trauma). On the other hand, dissociation is a symptom of untreated dissociative disorders that people have little to no control over.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “Dissociation is a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of who he or she is. This is a normal process that everyone has experienced. Examples of mild, common dissociation include daydreaming, highway hypnosis, or ‘getting lost’ in a book or movie, all of which involve ‘losing touch’ with awareness of one’s immediate surroundings.” However, for people with dissociative disorders, dissociation is much more pronounced, disruptive, and severe.
Generally, these symptoms are related to some form of trauma, and dissociation exists to shield the individual from it. Dissociation is most associated with three types of dissociative disorders: Dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder), depersonalization/derealization disorder, and dissociative amnesia. All of these types of dissociative disorders are commonly treated with psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy for Dissociative Identity Disorder
Psychotherapies are still the predominant way that dissociative disorders are treated. To treat dissociation, one has to get to the root causes of the dissociation. With dissociation, these core causes are often related to trauma, and they are often repressed very deeply within the individual. Psychotherapy can help bring those repressed traumas to the surface safely and empathetically. This is important because bringing up trauma too abruptly can cause more harm to an already delicate situation.
The most common forms of psychotherapy often used for treating dissociation include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). According to a clinical write-up titled Dissociative Identity Disorder by Doctors Mitra and Jain, “The most common approach is via psychodynamic psychotherapy… Recent approaches include the use of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)… The reason DBT skills are used is essentially secondary to some of the overlapping symptoms between borderline personality disorder and DID.”
Yes, psychotherapy is still the preferred way to treat dissociative disorders. However, to treat dissociation fully, one must also utilize other avenues of treatment. These include holistic means like yoga, meditation, and breathwork. Furthermore, these holistic modalities also offer an opportunity for engaging in important grounding exercises to treat dissociation.
Other Ways to Treat Dissociation
Yoga can be highly beneficial for treating all sorts of mental illness symptoms. This includes the symptom of dissociation.
According to the International Journal of Yoga, “Yoga therapy involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. Yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.” For dissociation, these benefits are compounded when grounding exercises are also utilized.
The following are just a few of the grounding exercises that can be beneficial for treating dissociation:
- Splashing cold water on one’s face, running their hands under cold water, or gripping an ice cube
- Trying to find a singular sound by which to focus on
- Finding a specific singular fabric or texture to focus on
- Taking a moment to pause, step back, assess the circumstances, communicate, and then address the situation
- Taking deep breaths and trying to quiet the mind (which is where yoga comes into play)
- Counting backward from 100
- Repeating a mantra, such as “I am in the here and now”
Our Mission of Healing at The Phoenix Recovery Center
Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we have one primary purpose: To help our clients recover from issues of mental illness and addiction. This includes the way we treat dissociation.
No one deserves to have their life disrupted by dissociation. The good news is that there are many ways by which those disruptions can be eliminated. The key is reaching out a hand for help. More good news is that our hand is already waiting to take it.
If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with issues of dissociation, please don’t wait to reach out. We can help. For more information on effective ways to treat dissociative disorders, contact The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.