Most people are familiar with anxiety and the typical anxiety Disorder Symptoms it exhibits.
Increased heart rate, feeling of fight or flight, fast breathing and dizziness to name a few. But when a person experiences many situations of anxiety where they feel at risk or someone they love is at risk, the symptoms can change and become more severe.
I have had a number of clients who present with a variety of different anxious symptoms and we work with their mind and body to help relieve their experience of anxiety and help their brain re-program the way they automatically react in the face of fear and stress.
There is another possibly less known symptom of anxiety though. It is called dissociation. Dissociation can happen when there have been either 1 major or various experiences of trauma. When a person is often subjected to experiences which overwhelm the brain’s ability to feel safe, the brain will eventually develop neuro-pathways which keep the person in “fight or flight”
How does Dissociation and Anxiety Disorder Symptoms Affect Us?
Over time, the person begins to feel constantly on “high alert” and experiences symptoms of anxiety. If they continue to experience life as difficult to process and feel, eventually they will reach for Coping mechanisms or addictions. This is fairly known information about anxiety but something that may not be is “Dissociation”.
Dissociation will often be present in a person who can no longer handle the stress of the “felt sense” in their body. Their feelings are too overwhelming and present to be “in their body”. We have all heard the phrase, “I just need to numb out for a while”, I can imagine. Dissociation takes this numbing to a new level. The client separates themselves from their physical body. They can not handle feeling their emotions nor can they attempt to even be present with them. Subconsciously then, they sort of pop out of their body.
The symptoms of dissociation may look like this:
- Feeling disconnected from yourself
- Problems with handling intense emotions
- Sudden and unexpected shifts of their mood
- Depression or anxiety
- Feeling as if the world is distorted or unreal/fuzzy
- Significant memory loss
- Feeling compelled to act in a certain way
- Identity confusion-behaving in a way that the person would normally see as offensive
Dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. Most professionals in the mental health field believe chronic trauma in childhood to be the underlying cause of dissociative identity disorder.
Dissociation Affects Many People
I really felt the pull to write this particular article as I have had the honour and privilege to work with some teenagers who exhibit dissociation. These are young, beautiful and innocent human beings who have been subjected to trauma repeatedly over their young life. Where some teens will pick up smoking, drinking and drugs as an addiction others dissociate instead. As I hold space for these clients during our sessions, it is apparent to me that we as a race do not yet have enough knowledge or understanding about what dissociation looks like. How it shows up.
One of my favourite modality’s to use with dissociative clients is Body Psychotherapy. My goal here is to assist my client’s in actually experiencing the felt sense of their body again. Inquiring in to what pain they hold in different parts of their body and helping it shift.
Another is parts work. Here I attempt to get in touch with the “Protector Parts” within my client’s internal environment. Find out what they are protecting and see if they can give us some space to talk with the “wounded” part in my client that the Protector is guarding so closely.
These 2 modality’s used together I find to be incredibly beneficial with client’s who are suffering from dissociation.
I am very passionate about helping these beautiful innocent young one’s suffering from anxiety disorder symptoms.
Let’s become educated about this less talked about disorder that is affecting not only adults but our young people as well.