Dissociation

MILD DISSOCIATION

Not every type of dissociation is negative or caused by trauma. Some sensitive and neuro-atypical people appear to use milder forms of dissociation as a strategy to get by in this stressful world. If we didn’t have this ability, we might otherwise go nuts from emotional or sensory overload.

“I am also finding myself detaching more – like going into my own world more – but still with a foot in the door of reality – like just functioning at the bare necessity – but I kind of find the detaching helpful and am used to it anyway.”

Julie, Aspie from England

“This is my most common symptom [of stress]. I actually develop a sort of tunnel vision and begin to feel as though my body is a vessel which I reside inside of. The more I am stressed, the deeper I live in it until it seems as though everyone and everything is more like a movie I watch on TV than anything real.”

Tom, Aspie from USA

“Yes, me too. I think I’ve developed a rather useful response to stress which rarely makes me reach high levels of frustration. As people start to put more and more conflicting demands on me I simply detach more and more. When I do this I am also able to hyperfocus on the important points instead of all the irrelevant stimuli the environment feeds you with. That’s why I think I work most efficiently under stress but still never comes anywhere near being burnt out.”

Leif, adult with Aspie traits from Sweden

“I understand that this is called dissociation. As far as I understand many people on the autism spectrum are able to dissociate. I know I live the biggest part of my days in dissociation; it is a ‘tool’ for me to live my life and I like it.

“There seem to be many assumptions/concepts like the one that ‘one should suffer before being allowed to feel fine’. I used to believe these ideas, but I have left most of them behind me during my life when I could see for myself that many of those assumptions are just not true to me. I think that learning how to deal with pain is one of life’s challenges and where one is supposed to be ‘creative’.

“Of course it is good to notice painful situations, because it helps one to change strategy or concepts, or whatever. It is a sign to do things in a different way. But if you have found a way to handle painful situations (f.e. dissociation) and you really handle that (knowing how to change not being dissociated when reality needs you to be ‘present’) I think it is a great tool to avoid unnecessary stress.”

– Lida, Aspie from the Netherlands

“I have a theory about dissociation. I think some people are ‘natural dissociators’ who can dissociate even if they have not suffered from a traumatic event or abuse. These people are able to use dissociation to cope with normal stresses or even boring things. One drawback to this might be dissociating unintentionally. Because people who have had traumatic experiences sometimes show this trait, psychologists over generalize and assume anyone who dissociates has had a traumatic experience. And if you try to tell them otherwise that might claim you repressed it or are in denial.”

Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

DISSOCIATION

More severe cases may include real dissociative disorders. Some Aspies and sensitive people describe the feeling of unreality or identity loss connected with Depersonalization disorder:

“It is as if I’m not in my body, but that I am in my mind, in my head, and the more external hards”ips I’m subjected to the more I go into my head and my actions are as if it is not me doing them. I hear myself talk, I feel perceive everything that happens as if I’m watching it from the outside instead of being there in the situation and experiencing it. As if I’m someone else and doing things automatically, like a robot. I’m there, but at the same time not.”

– ‘zport, Aspie from Sweden

“If I’m alone like now. No feeling of unreality at all. I’m in ‘my own little world’.

“But if I were sitting at a party now with 30 people the sensory impressions and sounds would get me stressed and a little upset. And that leads to me getting a feeling of unreality. I think my body shuts down the senses little by little. And I feel ‘strange’ or unreal. As if I’m not really there. Numbed.”

– ‘treeman’, Aspie from Sweden

“For me, “Glass Bubble light” means everything from:

– fading out from a conversation or activity because you loose the train of thought by some distraction that floats into the association chain the distraction creates;

– when one focuses on a detail and sort of BEING IN IT, like becoming one with the scent of a lilac or with an odd light pattern on a wall and getting stuck there so that the rest of the world ceases to exist for a while;

– daydreaming so intensely that it feels more real than “the real world”:

– not knowing who one is when waking up and having to check one’s ID-card or in other ways trying to connect that person other people view one as with the “I” one is with the body one has. I can sometimes feel that “I” – my mind or my soul or whatever it is – could live in another body or another life but “I” happen to right now live in the body and life of Alfapetsmamman, and so be it. Not sure if it’s weak sense of identity or something else;

– feeling that the world is unreal (and wanting to do crazy stuff just to test if it really is or not – like pinching people).”

– Alfapetsmamman, female Aspie with ADHD and PTSD from Sweden

“I recognise myself both in depersonalisation and derealisation. I have not been physically abused by my family, but I have a mother who has subjected to all sorts of things as a child and I think this has harmed me too in a way. She is NT, som she has had an easier time adapting, having a career etc, but at the same time she is quite emotionally disturbed, with almost psychopatic traits. Many in my family, on my mother’s side, are fairly odd, even though they carefully hide it to outsiders. No one in my family shows any feelings or talk with each other, except about practical things. If one tries to be more personal, they just get angry, accusing, and very defensive. I was sensitive as a child and was deeply affected by this coldness and anger, much more than my siblings. That the constantly tried to change me, blamed me for everything and told me how wrong I was, probably also added to my never getting a chance to develop a whole personality. I was whoever they wanted me to be.

“I have not had any strong feelings of unreality, but I often feel that the outside world, and myself, feel ‘mechanical’, without colour or life. I can hardly feel anything at all nowadays, and that is the problem. […] There is a sort of unreality over me, which makes me feel that I’m hardly even part of humanity any more. ”

– Anastasia, Aspie from Sweden

AUTISTIC BUBBLE

Some of us feel as if living in a bubble, which we do not necessarily wish to come out of.

I’ve always felt as if I was protected by some sort of bubble which somewhat protects me from the rest of the world. When one is as sensitive as I am, such a protective bubble is very useful indeed! It also keeps me feeling generally relaxed and hyperfocused on the here and now.

Ing, site-author

“At home I have everything arranged the way I want it and keep noise to a minimum. When alone, I do not answer the phone unless I am expecting a call and ignore the doorbell. I have the curtains drawn to keep out sunlight and prefer to keep the windows closed to keep out noise from the outside world. I tend to record TV programs so I can fast forward through commercials, which I consider jarring and rude. I listen to the radio very seldom because what’s played is to cater for a wide audience and I only like a few songs, thus I am more inclined to spend a day recording the few songs I like off the radio and listen to the tape over and over again until I get bored with it. All to keep my bubble intact.”

Tom, Aspie from USA

“I have a big ’personal bubble’ and just knowing there are people closer than 500 m makes it impossible for me to fully relax, even in my sleep.”

Matilda, adult Aspie from Sweden

 

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4 Comments »

  1. 1. The above comment is spam.
    2. Unfortunately I was homeless, raped, and prostituted as a teenager, so I tend to dissociate at the first inkling of danger. I do have PTSD, and it manifests as severe dissociation/depersonalization.
    But even as a child, I often felt the sense of unreality, of being outside my body, of not knowing who I was, that is described in this section.

  2. Liz said,

    my autistic sister-in-law dissociates (she goes back in time) when things are stressful or she is unwell. I want to get her help and an understanding for the doctor (who hasn’t been helpful), but don’t know where to start. Any suggestions would be helpful.

  3. kcmc5025185 said,

    I have been noticing that I do this more frequently than I would have thought… It can be a bit impairing to me, preventing me from completing or initiating a task… Often I altogether forget what I am doing, where I am or who I am… It always comes on with no warning at all.

  4. Ella141 said,

    I’m autistic. I can dissociate as a pleasurable experience – particularly to music. But since I was 5 or so I have had very severe, terrifying attacks of it, when I feel I know nothing about myself, the world, being human, any of it. I feel like there are several “me”s, one watching another, watching another, and the real “me” is trapped by all these others. I used to shout and shout for my mother. Later, I got addicted to benzos.

    I have read it is depersonalization, but generally people write about that as being a bit detached – not this wholesale destruction of any reality I can comprehend. So I wonder if mine is not more severe than usual. When I have read about panic attacks, people say they’re scared they’ll die. Well, for me, in that state, death would be preferable to a moment more of that feeling.

    I suspect that something pretty nasty happened when I was small – not rape or beating, but some horrific family coldness, division, utter withdrawal from me, exacerbated, of course, by the autism in the family. I wonder if I was part way to getting fully dissociative – developing alter egos to cope with the pain of abandonment – but got sort of stuck halfway.

    I love the trances I can go into on music. It really makes life worth living. But this other aspect of it has wrecked my life. That’s no exaggerating. Decades of fear of myself. I am trying to face it now. The feeling is just a feeling. I do not need to fear any aspect of myself.


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