The great 20th-century psychotherapist, Viktor E. Frankl, once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” This is the same freedom we have when we choose to respond to our issues of mental health. How will we respond? Will we back away from it, or will we face it head-on and engage in treating it? The same can be considered for how we respond to dissociative disorders. The good news is that there are many management tools and grounding techniques for dissociation. Likewise, there are many ways to find the freedom that Frankl was referencing.
What Exactly Are Dissociative Disorders?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “Dissociative disorders involve problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior and sense of self. Dissociative symptoms can potentially disrupt every area of mental functioning. Examples of dissociative symptoms include the experience of detachment or feeling as if one is outside one’s body, and loss of memory or amnesia.” The APA also notes that dissociative disorders are often associated with trauma. This trauma must be addressed with management tools for dissociative disorders.
Now, there are three primary types of dissociative disorders: Dissociative amnesia, depersonalization/derealization disorder, and, perhaps the most well-known dissociative disorder, dissociative identity disorder (DID). Up until relatively recently, DID was known as “multiple personality disorder.” Meanwhile, these disorders all have distinct signs and symptoms, such as memory loss with dissociative amnesia, detachment from one’s body with depersonalization/derealization disorder, and distinct identities with dissociative identity disorder. However, they also share many universal signs and symptoms under the “dissociative disorder” umbrella.
What Are Some Signs and Symptoms of Dissociative Disorders?
Being able to spot some of the signs and symptoms of dissociative disorders early can be the difference between enduring short-term side effects and long-term consequences. Spotting signs early helps the individual start to implement some management tools, such as grounding techniques for dissociation, early as well.
The following are just a few of the warning signs and symptoms of dissociative disorders:
- Feeling separate from oneself and the world around them
- Having long gaps in memory, often relating to a specific traumatic event or events
- Experiencing difficulties at work, home, or school, specifically trouble concentrating due to distracting racing thoughts
- Exhibiting unhealthy eating habits and behaviors
- Having trouble communicating experiences, though one is fully aware of what is going on
- Isolating away from loved ones
- Losing interest in activities that they once enjoyed
- Using substances as a way to self-medicate
- Experiencing issues with sleep, such as sleeping too much, and/or sleeping too little
- Expressing feelings of self-harm or having suicidal ideations
If any, some, or all of the signs above are present, it is highly recommended to seek professional help as soon as possible. The good news is that there are many excellent management tools for dissociative disorders.
What Are Some Management Tools for Dissociative Disorders?
Some management tools for dissociative disorders include grounding techniques for dissociation and coping skills for dissociation. These can be relatively “simple,” and are often highly accessible. Some examples include noticing specific sounds that are happening at the moment, focusing on breathing while counting forward and backward, holding onto an ice cube or running hands under cold water, walking barefoot, and seeing how the ground feels differently without shoes (this is also known as “walking meditation”).
Another coping skill for dissociation is learning to “P.A.U.S.E.,” which stands for “Pause, Attend, Understand, Symbolize Your Experience.” This can help when symptoms start to feel overwhelming. Journaling can also be an excellent management tool for dissociative disorders. This is especially true for individuals who have a difficult time expressing what they are going through verbally. Also, journaling can be very helpful when an individual is in therapy because it helps to track progress as well as generates talking points that can be brought up in therapy sessions.
Management tools for dissociative disorders should also be utilized in tandem with the currently recommended and regarded forms of treatment. These are primarily psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and medication, such as anti-anxiety medicines, antidepressants, or antipsychotic medicines. The combination of these two treatment methods can help manage the more severe symptoms of dissociation so that the various grounding techniques can be more accessible and effective.
Healing Is Our Mission at The Phoenix Recovery Center
Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, our primary mission is long-term recovery over short-term “fixes.” This is why we always send our clients off with the proper coping skills and management tools to live their lives to the fullest, with the least amount of mental health distractions.
Dr. Frankl also once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Dissociative disorders try to rob individuals of their basic freedom of living a life without distraction. Yet, with various management tools for dissociative disorders, one can “choose their own way” of living.
If you feel like you or someone you love is struggling with issues of mental health, addiction, or both, don’t wait to reach out. We can help you recover. For more information on effective treatment and recovery options for dissociative disorders, contact The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.