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Trauma-informed care for nurses. How to deal with feelings of dissociation and detachment

Updated: Dec 8, 2023



Trauma-informed care for nurses. Dissociation and detachment are in themselves not classed as mental health conditions. Instead, they are a possible symptom of other conditions such as anxiety, depression or PTSD.


Dissociation is an avoidance strategy that the brain uses to cope with a variety of stressful and traumatic situations. Whilst some people may be able to process these situations without experiencing detachment, those already struggling with poor mental health dissociation may happen to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear or shame temporarily.


People experiencing dissociation or detachment must seek help and advice on why it is happening and work at improving their mental health.


Let’s find out more below.


What Is Dissociation?


Dissociation is a feeling of being disconnected from yourself and the current moment. It is a way for the brain to avoid negative thoughts or traumatic situations.


Dissociation is also associated with anxiety and can happen when an individual feels extreme stress or panic.


Dissociation can make you feel powerless and feeling like there is no way to stop it. It can last a few hours or, in extreme cases, months.



Symptoms of Dissociation in Anxiety


People who experience dissociation with anxiety usually realize that stop the sensation, which can leave them feeling detached from their thoughts, identity, and the world around them.


You may experience the following:


● Depersonalisation- which makes you feel disconnected from your mind and body.


● Derealisation- which can make you feel like the world around you isn’t real and that you are watching a movie.



Causes of Dissociation


The exact cause of dissociation hasn’t been found, but it is known to be linked with anxiety and stress disorders and is associated with people dealing with PTSD and trauma.



 


How to treat dissociation


Dissociation is not a mental health condition but a result of other conditions; it is not generally treated as a stand-alone condition. To help relieve the symptoms of dissociation, treating the primary medical condition such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD is essential.


Treatments for these conditions may include medication, psychotherapy, and other holistic and self-help techniques.





Coping With Dissociation in Anxiety


Coping dissociation can feel like an uphill battle. It takes practice, patience and willpower to overcome the feelings of dissociation.


The best advice is to practise grounding techniques to help you stay in the present moment and stop your anxiety from spiralling out of control.


To help lessen the likelihood of dissociation, try to make sure you are getting enough sleep every night and take part n some form of exercise; this can be a walk around the park.


It doesn’t mean you need to become a marathon runner.



How can I help myself?


While the suggestions below are not a magical cure for dissociation, implementing them can positively affect your recovery.


● Keep a thought journal

● Try visualization and other mindfulness techniques

● Try grounding techniques

● Talk to other people with similar experiences



 

Reflection


1. Can you identify if you have experienced dissociation at any time?

2. How did it make you feel? How long did it last?

3. What changes are you making this week to help improve your mental health?



 


 

Sources:

https://www.verywellmind.com/dissociation-anxiety-

4692760#:~:text=The%20key%20to%20managing%20dissociation,as%20though%20you%20ar

e%20dissociating.

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-

dissociative-disorders/self-care/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-

dissociative-disorders/about-dissociation/

https://www.restoredhopecounselingservices.com/blog/2017/10/4/why-cant-i-feel


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