Dissociation anxiety is not a specific diagnosis or set of symptoms. Instead, dissociation is a symptom and may be connected to anxiety. Dissociation refers to being disconnected from the present moment. It is a subconscious way of coping and avoiding a traumatic condition or negative thoughts.
When a person experiences dissociation they become disconnected from their surroundings or from themselves. This works to manage potentially overwhelming emotional experiences such as traumatic memories and may temporarily reduce feelings of shame, anxiety, or fear (but not function as a long-term fix) Dissociation connected to anxiety may occur during a stressful anxiety event or during or after a period of intense worry.
While about half of people may have experienced an event of dissociation in their lifetime, only about 2% are actually diagnosed with what is known as the dissociative disorders that are outlined in the diagnosis section below.
Overall, dissociation interferes with treatment of all types of disorders and makes it hard to pay attention in the present moment. It can also slow or prevent getting over trauma; so, it’s essential to address through treatment and learning ways to cope with dissociation.
The process of dissociation generally occurs outside your own awareness though you may also realize it is happening, particularly if it is in the context of anxiety. It involves a disconnection between your memory, consciousness, identity, and thoughts. In other words, usually, your brain processes events together, such as your memories, identity, perceptions, motor function, etc. However, during dissociation, these parts splinter, leaving you with a feeling of disconnection.
What are some of the causes of dissociation?
We know that it correlates with mood and anxiety disorders and is also a way of dealing with trauma, such as natural disasters or long-term abuse.
There are three types of dissociative disorders that are diagnosed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, these are separate from dissociation connected to anxiety. For your reference, they are listed below.
Dissociative amnesia: This refers to trouble remembering events or having amnesia for events due to dissociation.
Depersonalization disorder: This refers to ongoing feelings that you are detached from the world around you.
Dissociative identity disorder: This is the former diagnosis of multiple personality disorder and refers to having different personalities and gaps in memory.
Are you concerned about dissociation anxiety? It could be that you actually have anxiety about your dissociation, rather than dissociation that is plainly caused by anxiety.
If you are finding yourself very worried about dissociation symptoms such as feeling detached from the world or things not feeling real, it’s essential to speak to your doctor or a mental health professional about how you are feeling and what can be done to help you feel better.