Do you “leave your body” under stress?

By | May 24, 2010

In times of stress, and embarrassingly, when I am supposed so speak in public, I sometimes have a strange problem.  I used to think that I get “self conscious”, but today I discovered that this is not the right word for what happens.  I dissociate. From what I’ve read, mine is a fairly mild case… but still disturbing.  Once you do it once, fear of it happening again makes it worse.

What happens is I flip into observer mode and can’t speak. Like everyone else, I’m looking at and listening to myself from the outside expecting me to speak, but my brain is observing, not doing. This causes a panic experience because I realize I need to get in there and think and speak, but you can’t panic and think at the same time. I can’t be in that mode and also thinking and interacting like a normal person. Annoying.

I don’t recall any childhood abuse and have no reason to suspect it, but I was in a horrible car accident as a teenager and I did have a traumatic blank out while acting in a high school play.

Is there a doctor in the house? Is there a cure for this? is a partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s conscious or psychological functioning. Dissociation can be a response to trauma or drugs and perhaps allows the mind to distance itself from experiences that are too much for the psyche to process at that time. Dissociative disruptions can affect any aspect of a person’s functioning. …

The DSM-IV considers symptoms such as depersonalization, derealization and psychogenic amnesia to be core features of dissociative disorders. However, in the normal population dissociative experiences that are not clinically significant are highly prevalent, with 60% to 65% of the respondents indicating that they have had some dissociative experiences. …

Symptoms of dissociation resulting from trauma may include depersonalization, psychological numbing, disengagement, or amnesia regarding the events of the abuse. It has been hypothesized that dissociation may provide a temporarily effective defense mechanism in cases of severe trauma; however, in the long term, dissociation is associated with decreased psychological functioning and adjustment.

Child abuse, especially chronic abuse starting at early ages, has been related to high levels of dissociative symptoms in a clinical sample, including amnesia for abuse memories. … – wikipedia

Here is somewhat good news from

Treatment has two goals: firstly, to allow the normal functioning of 
a highly dissociative person, and secondly, to treat the underlying cause 
of dissociation.  These goals are generally interconnected and are dealt
with simultaneously.

Since most dissociative disorders result from extreme stress and/or
trauma, and are also exacerbated for that stress, teaching the highly
dissociative person to deal with stress is one method of treatment.
Learning to work around one's stress would seem to be essential in
reaching a plateau of functionality.

For deep-rooted trauma, hypnosis is often used to aid in the recall,
examination of, and transcendence of the past trauma.  Dealing with the
memories of abuse, for instance, is vital in the recovery process.

Regardless of the course of treatment, it is usually long-term, taking
several years to achieve what the therapist considers normality.
However, once the dissociative person enters treatment for their
dissociation (as opposed to any associated disorders they may have),
treatment is almost always successful.

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