What Does Dissociation Feel Like?

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I am told a lot by my therapist that I am dissociating, but I'm not quite sure how to recognize when I'm doing it on my own.

I worry that I'm "making it up" since I wonder in my head if how I feel is dissociation. I guess I think that if I am consciously wondering if that's what I'm doing, if that means I'm not doing it. Does that make sense?

Anyway, so I'm wondering what dissociation feels like to all of you and how you know that's what you're doing.

Thanks for your input.
For some people, dissociation is a form of blanking out, spacing out, getting lost in a semi-trance like state.

I may do this as well, but I also get a lot of time and space alteration when I dissociate. I am an artist, have been since I was young, and I also dissociate often when I work. (I'm told we all do to a degree. How else could you get through 8+ hours in a stamping factory, right?) And over the years I've learned to steer and direct some of my more voluntary dissociative states.

Anyways, things I experience: shifts in time passage (speeding and slowing and sometimes on rarer occasions both at the same time), dissolution of the self, the ability to see component principles and a version of the whole simultaneously (like looking at a lawn and seeing every blade of grass as an individual organism while also seeing "lawn" at the same time), stretching of limbs and torso, expansion of cranial space -- usually out the back and front of my head, tingling at the third eye, flipping of the limbs so they sometimes feel like my forearms and or elbow regions are on backwards, confusion about placement of body parts (so if I had my arms folded, I would not be able to tell you which one was on top), stretching (and on RARE occasion shrinking) of the room I am in, acoustical shifts that make the room sound like it is the wrong size (often registered as an incorrect reverb in my more conscious mind), floating or levitation, on rare occasion full out of body experience, collapse of verbal thought and sense of time, a heightening of my ever present synaesthesia (I am a taste/texture/shape/color synaesthete with feedback and cross talk in all these areas. body orientation occasionally gets mixed up in this as well), displacement of the self--feeling like I either am a different size than my body or adjacent to it--sometimes offset just by an inch or two.

I think that's about it. Note that I don't get all of these sensations at any one time. And sometimes one will flow from one into the next. These may read like a mystic's altered states to folks who don't go through it. They very much feel like that from the inside. As an artist and as a scholar and philosopher at earlier points in my life, I've been able to do much with these states. Recently, I've begun looking at my dissociation again more as a gift of sight (a potentially dangerous one) and less as a symptom. But were I doing something else professionally, like working as an air traffic controller, I'd probably not do as well wandering in and out of these states several times a day.
I USED to get most, but not all, of what Blues described, but now, I mostly just zone out, space out, or as I call it, leave the scene........

Reading what Blues wrote, has made me realize just how happy I am, that I USE to go through all of that.......
I zone out and space out mainly. Voices seem very far away (and I don't understand anything that is being said). Sometimes, I don't remember getting from point A to point B (could range from driving home to how and why I'm in a particular room in my house). Sometimes I'm focused on something in the room (like a lamp or a picture etc.) and it starts out sharp but goes hazy.

Sometimes I can tell it's going to happen because I feel detached somewhat from my body, floaty almost. But normally I don't really know until afterwards that I've "left the building so to speak".
I'm pretty fortunate, doesn't happen often - (I don't think, but sometimes I wonder if it happens, and I'm not aware- mini lapses in memory/ 'time'.:dontknow:)

I feel like I'm not "actively there", more like watching a movie, but I 'know' what's occuring (sort of), sort of in the distance- can't explain it. "Out of body", is as close as I can describe it.

Or, I feel like I've zoned out, time has passed with no memory for a minute, as above.

Or, it seems to start as a really rapid flashback, then I'm 'gone' a minute, then back to "reality", -yikes. I don't even know if that's disassociating, or not-?

Mindfulness, touch helps. Also breathing.
Also, as far as coming out of it, familiar/ safe surroundings, people.
Sorry- forgot.

Also seems like "hugely distracting"- totally forget where I am/ why, eg, crossing the street, for a few minutes.

-Not sure if that's disassociation either, exactly. Just all of a sudden I remember. Less like distraction, only in that, I don't remember any other thoughts, no proper sense of time/ 'space'.

-Only once remember many years ago, really disassociating on one occassion, what was occuring (though I knew it/ 'saw' it), felt like an entirely different person than me.
I earn a living from my creativity too and like Blues, I use dissociation as a tool. I go 'there' when I want to see things differently again. I also have the cranial expansion experience that Blues talks about. Other experiences include; disconnection, floating, absence of feeling, coldness, loss/expansion of time, restricted vision, out of body experiences, abstraction, being beyond language. I also get blank moments, where I drop frames and check out completely.

I still get triggered and experience the more negative side of dissociation too and I'm learning to be disciplined and bring myself back from these moments. So I guess there is good and bad dissociation, one that is closer to daydreaming the other a response to fear. I also agree with Blues that you would not want to be exploring dissociation if you were a bus driver or surgeon. When I dissociate in my work, I am in a safe space were I can come to/do no harm.

I guess I experience dissociation differently than most...
When I dissociate, I have trouble remembering things. I lose my place. I guess its sort of like feeling "out of body". I tend to forget where I am, what's going on, who I am. It's like my mind just shuts off. It happens when I get triggered badly.
I always thought of it as my minds way of saying "This is too much for me to handle so I'm shutting off until it goes away".
It's very scary.

I dissociate like crazy, and it was such a relief when I could put a name to it. I have varying degrees of it, depending on the situation and triggers:

  • Feeling that I'm behind my body, watching
  • Feeling like I'm just eyeballs, no body
  • Feeling like I'm floating in the air and not on the ground
  • Feeling suddenly drowsy
  • Feeling detached, far away from what I'm doing
  • Feeling like I've turned inside out
  • Feeling like I'm numb, without emotion
  • Changing the focus of things I see--foreground and background switch
I have had problems with dissociation for years. It usually happens for a few hours after I have had flashbacks, or sometimes when I go through a really stressful time or have a bad shock I can be dissociated for days and even weeks.

It's weird. I feel emotionless and expressionless, and I see other people as the same. People seem like cardboard cut-outs, I can't recognise emotions in other people, and although sometimes I realise when they are trying to talk to me, I am unable to make sense of what is being said. Sometimes I can hear myself speak, but it sounds like someone else is talking. Yet somehow I have learnt to cope even when I am like this for long periods. I always avoid people and they often scare me because I can't understand them or their intentions, but I can do the basics and stick to some sort of routine, and look after myself. I'm not sure how I manage it in that state, but I sort of go on auto-pilot I guess. My therapist and I talk lots about how to prevent this sort of dissociation, and some techniques are helpful, but a lot of the time I can feel myself slipping away and it feels like there is nothing I can do about it. I just try to do my best and when I look back on it after it's over, I can see it is just my head's way of trying to cope with a situation which would otherwise have overwhelmed me.

I hope one day I will have a better way of dealing with things, but one step at a time for now.

Best to all, KB
When I disassociate, it's similar to the loss of time people experience when they drive long trips and then cant remember parts of it because the brain is on automatic.
I have missing spots in time when it's way later than I expected it to be.
Hi Healing Surviver,
In my experience with dissociation which can frequently come and go when i get really overwhelmed its a going out of your body experience. With PTSD sufferers its very common to dissociate. My understanding of how it works is my mind and body become so overstimulated or aroused from triggers and stress that I cant stay grounded in my body and so it feels like i am going outside myself. Its almost like your spirit or soul is drifting and you can often feel very light headed. Some times when i dissociate Ill try to ground myself or bring my self back to earth to me its like what happens after you have a panic attack that you keep trying to suppress and then suddenly you find your completely not there that your just a body and no soul or your detached like other people said.
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