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Readers Respond: What Does Dissociation Feel Like?

Responses: 24


Updated December 27, 2009

Dissociation is difficult to define, and many people experience dissociation differently. What does dissociation feel like for you? How do you know if you are dissociating?


Ever since I was a small child I have felt these feelings. Feelings that everything around me was unfamiliar or dreamlike, but I have learnt to deal with these episodes as they only last a few days and I have epilepsy which causes far more magnificent and terrifying episodes. But what is far worse is the feelings of depersonalisation I have. They don't come and go, they've been with my my whole life, I feel as if deep within me there is a core, which is 'me' but the rest of my surrounding thoughts, feeling and actions are not really my own. I am in control, but I'm limited to what the 'fake' part of my mind allows me to do and think and feel. I also have this feeling with my body, that it is not my own body, like I'm trapped in someone elses, like pre op transgender, only I don't just feel my body is the wrong gender, it is entirely wrong like living in a body that is totally alien from me. When I look back, I don't recognise myself, it's like looking at someone else.
—Guest Hannah

Awareness is a big step!

I have highly educated myself through out the years of behavioral/psychiatric disorders because of my diagnoses; when I begin to experience "dissociation", I knew that my feelings were genuinely validated. My first symptoms were feelings of being in a "dream state"-sort of like sleep deprivation and finally falling asleep for a short amount of time and having to wake up;I felt as if I wasn't sure if I was in a light sleep or a dream that I was lightly awakening from. I wasn't for sure at times if I had actually woken up or not! I felt like my body and soul were separated as if my body was floating alittle bit away from my body instead of being on one achord or unity. I would have conversations later or think about things and I wasn't sure if what I remembered was reality or passive thoughts.blackouts & amnesia are very common for min to weeks at a time. My behavior often was normal (I was told)but I have no knowledge of it. Stress is the key trigger. I eliminated what I had control of!

most terrifying thing

I feel like a lot of what the above guests were saying. I go through blocking memories and people and wonder if I really knew them or if things really happend. Then out of nowhere the emotions come making me feel like all I want to do is scream like my head is splitting in two. I beg God to make it stop because I can barely take it anymore. Then it goes away until something or someone triggers it. The worst time is when I am driving. I seem to wander at this time the most. I try to keep my mind busy in order to feel like I am doing something. My interest in things is waning. I wonder if I am fighting a losing battle
—Guest lin

I am happy

My family has told me for years that they often see me change. I am not aware of it because they are on the outside and I am in the inside. It is strange because I know they know see something that I don't and I have to trust them.
—Guest Linda

Acting for that important someone

I no longer dissociate. Several years ago I noticed I was no longer escaping into my own world. The best description I can give you of my escape is that I was living my life before the eyes of someone who I felt was important. Someone I admired. Because this person was a constant observer, I strived to be my best self for them. For years, I lived my life in this manner. I really don't remember drifting in and out my acting. My part in the play was so well learned acting was my constant companion. It wasn't unpleasant, I did function, but I now realize that I was never giving my full attention to anyone or anything. I have been diagnosed with PTSD after an auto accident. It was shortly after this diagnosis that I stopped dissociating. I also began having flashbacks, not of the accident, but of traumatic events that occured earlier in my life. I am currently trying to find out what triggers these flashbacks. It isn't pleasant but I want to face them not escape from them.
—Guest Actor

Spaced Out

I feel like I'm not here. Someone can talk to me and I hear them, I see their mouth moving, but I don't really know what they said. I don't understand what they are talking about. I feel like I'm just observing life and walking in a cloud. I can do something and 6 hours can pass by and I don't remember what I was doing. I have conversions that I don't remember, I lose things, people say I've done or said things I don't remember saying or doing. I feel numb/unreal. Am I here? Do I exist? Will I disappear? Sometimes, I'm locked in my memories of the past when I was abused. It's like I'm still there and I can't escape. The emotions are so intense and scary that I space out to block it. Other times, I can't even do that. I've disappeared and the world is far away at the end of a long corridor, but I can barely hear them. Maybe this is what they call shutting down? So that you can cope with extreme emotional pain? I'm not sure, but I wonder if I'm crazy or losing it some days.
—Guest frances


Wow, I didn't know there was a word for what I've been feeling. I call it snapping because sometimes I feel like I snapped out of my body even though I'm still watching things through my bodies eyes. I feel like everything I decide doesn't matter because my body will keep doing what it wants no matter what. It freaks me out but I keep to myself because I don't want people thinking I'm crazy or something. Is there a treatment for this "snapping" ?
—Guest Chris

Dissociative experience not bad for me!

I don't find it scary at all that I do, except when I am with my kids. When I realize that I am in the room with my kids, that is scary. I find dissociation quite pleasant as it is an escape from awful things. I notice it most when I can not cope with my life. There have even been times that it is almost like I have awoke from a long sleep but not sure who has been living my life. I dissociate for weeks, months and even years. Apparently, she calls herself Jayne I guess she steps in when I can't handle it anymore. I have learned to welcome my dissociation as reprieve from craziness or total obliteration of my soul, heart and mind.

Varies by type - gradually making sense

I started experiencing dissociation as a child, prekindergarten as a way of dealing with neglect and being alone all day. It was also how I dealt with the murderous rages my birth father went into. I was the victim by day while my mother was at work and my mother was the victim at night. I thought that if I had been a little girl I wouldn't have been treated like that as my cousins were both girls and almost the same age and weren't beaten and neglected like I was. So part of me became a little girl to face the worst my father had to dish out. I know logically that I still was assaulted very brutally, but I didn't experience most of it. She is my survivor and is much tougher than me. She rarely talks to me when I am in charge. When I go away she is what shows up. Even though I have been trained to defend myself, she is the one who shows up and tries to protect me and unfortunately she is no match for violent grownups. I lost nearly two full years as an adult while in the Army she constantly had to take over because I was being the brunt of sexual harassment every day which I couldn't cope with very well. She dealt with it. During that time I was very confused. I started having the vague notions that I wanted to dress like a girl which was very confusing (I was not aware that I had an alter, just weird unexplainable things happened). I thought maybe I was transsexual or something. I lost 2 years. I thought I was one age when I asked, but the person asking was good with mental calculations and when he wrote down my birthday noted that I was two years older than what I said. I had therapy that was a little more continuous and even a psychiatrist that I only remember speaking to for a short time knew I was fragmented. This didn't dawn on me until one day those fragments started interacting in a way that I could observe (not see, but hear). It didn't scare me as they generally don't consider anything the logical observer in me has got to say as one other part that is really negative has a really distorted but extremely logical method of arguing. The positive part of me kind of weakly attempts to argue the opposite and argues for life. The girl is different. She doesn't interact with me other than saying what seems random things (about her needs and wants). When she takes over its complete lights out for me. I remember nothing. When the other part that is active (the weak positive one) things are depersonalized - I feel as if I am watching a different me that tries to buy things to make me feel better. They never do. I know it but that part of me has fixed patterns and can't learn like the central core of me can. I had been diagnosed as being borderline by one psychologist but other therapists think PTSD and DDNOS. Its really a toss-up. The core me isn't angry or I don't feel safe being angry. The only part that expresses outward anger is the girl and she doesn't speak in a different voice when she's in control as she's only got my vocal chords to deal with. In my head her voice is different when she cares to speak which isn't often. Yeah they are all part of me I know. I'm not allowed to talk about most of this on DD sites as its all too triggering and I get censored. At least some of you can read this and say "Umm, I'm not that bad he's plain nuts!"
—Guest Meribast

Scariest times

I feel like I'm going crazy when it happens. It's a foggy kind of feeling. I don't feel comfortable in my skin. I don't recognize myself fully in the mirror. I get terrified, trapped in my own alienlike body. I know I am not back in that event, but I feel as though I am. Nothing seems real... Then the panic sets in. It's debilitating, terrifying, Depressing. I don't know my triggers which makes it harder I think... Plus I'm all alone.
—Guest Lucy B

Scariest times

I feel like I'm going crazy when it happens. It's a foggy kind of feeling. I don't feel comfortable in my skin. I don't recognize myself fully in the mirror. I get terrified, trapped in my own alienlike body. I know I am not back in that event, but I feel as though I am. Nothing seems real... Then the panic sets in. It's debilitating, terrifying, Depressing. I don't know my triggers which makes it harder I think... Plus I'm all alone
—Guest Lucy B

Bipolar, BPD, PTSD-all in one

When I dissociate.... I can't hear you. I don't know you're there. I can hurt myself and not know it. I'm like a zombie. I walk around with a look a pure emptiness in my eyes. You have to pull my eyes all the way open and look straight in my eyes and yell my name to get me out of it. It's scary.

is this dissociation?

During and after a very traumatic relationship I am feel as if I am not really my self anymore. It's like being in a film, as the connection with my past is erased and I cannot feel an emotional connection with my previous life. I think my face looks different. I feel that I have suffered an emotional death and I don't really exist. During the most painful period i feel as if my body has no weight and the link with the world is nearly cut. At times I am afraid that these are early symptoms of entering a psychosis.
—Guest nulifer


I can tell I'm dissociative when I feel I'm in a balloon high above self and everything else. I am detached. No affect. The balloon is connected only by a thin spider-web to things and people below. The pull of the drift away is strong, the gentle tugging on the spider-web is very weak. The effort to connect is so difficult as to be almost impossible. The distance from self and others is almost insurmountable. There is only a small voice sounding the alarm: This is scary. Get help. I get so tired with the effort of trying to hang onto connections, that I want to end the pain any way I can. I reflect on ending my life. Sometimes it seems the only out available to end the inexorable drift into nothingness.

5 different men

I do not have it but have fallen in love with a man who does. I am trying to understand him and learn to communicate with all of the facets of himself he presents me with. It feels like I have fallen in love with five different men. He retreats, he becomes assertive, edgy, he can be romantic. I am empathic and can feel his panic.
—Guest ravensoul

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