Mental Health, Uncategorized

Supporting Someone With Dissociation

As someone with dissociation and friends with it too I’ve realised it’s not very known and knowing how to help is even less known. So, let’s start with what dissociation is: in the most basic explanation it’s a disconnect from oneself and/or their environment. It’s a spectrum. Everyone dissociates from randomly ending up at home when they just left work or daydreaming. But a person with a dissociative disorder may experience loss of time, complete amnesia, feeling like they’re dreaming, or in its most serve forms such as dissociative identity disorder, complete disconnect from oneself in the form of other people. Personally, I lose time or feel like I’m dreaming. The cause of a dissociative disorder is usually chronic stress and trauma and/or a damaged attachment to caregivers.

I will link some resources at the end of this post if you ‘more about the science of dissociation.

Here are some of the things which help me and my friends during dissociative episodes

  1. Learn more about dissociation and notice what triggers these episodes.
  2. Ask questions about what the person needs in that moment or for future reference. Do not ask the cause unless the person volunteers that information as it may trigger an episode, flashbacks, or panic.
  3. If the individual appears disconnected talk to them in a calm voice. In that moment they may be distressed internally and need another person’s energy to bring them back to Earth.
  4. Frequent reminders of the time and date date, plans or what’s happened so far on that day.
  5. Remind them they are safe by reminding them of their current environment and who you are and why they can trust you. Don’t take it personally if they still cannot trust they’re safe with you. Their brain is in overdrive trying to find the cause of the stress.
  6. Be patient, it can take a while for dissociation to pass or for someone to comprehend what you’re saying. Try your best not to get agitated as this will not help you or the person.
  7. Give them time to come around and ask what would help now.
  8. Learn grounding skills such as 5-1 sensory detailing, breath work and simple things like having someone count backwards or recite the alphabet.
  9. Don’t touch them without permission as this could cause more distress. For some people additional sensory input can be too much.
  10. If you are in a different environment go somewhere quiet or outside.
  11. Fresh air can be helpful because it’s a lot of sensory input which helps some people reconnect.
  12. Offer a hot or cold drink, something soft, some food or any other sensory things you may have around.
  13. Listen with compassion. It can sound strange to someone who has never experienced dissociation, but it is a very real mechanism the brain develops to handle stress and trauma.

System Speak – podcast about trauma and dissociation

Society For The Study Of Trauma And Dissociation

Trauma and Dissociation


{ "slotId": "Ad 1", "unitType": "normal", "pubId": "pub-9293820955412167" }

6 thoughts on “Supporting Someone With Dissociation”

  1. Hi, thank you for your article. I’d been dissociative for many years of my life. I am 57 now. I love your #5 above. It is hardwired into the brain of a person that has been traumatized.
    I do say, for myself, integration is a daily lifestyle. I had to learn this in my life. I expected one day to arrive at the destination of complete integration, only to learn, integration is a lifestyle. It must be taken care of daily.

  2. Hello,

    I seem to have applied most of the tips mentioned here, but I haven’t gone anywhere. Perhaps, I am using them the wrong way. Could you provide me some suggestions to get past this stage?

    I am so happy to connect with you. I have followed your blog, and I must say you are doing a fantastic job.

    Kiran Kandel

    1. Thank you for the compliment! It can be hard sometimes. Depending if you’re doing these tips to yourself or another person, it may affect you differently. The thing that helps me most is a change of environment. If I’m dissociating I try to go outdoors or spend time with someone else. Sometimes it can be hard to get through dissociation but finding out the triggers and knowing you can handle them is a very useful skill to have!

      1. You’re welcome! 🙂
        Thanks for your suggestions. I would definitely try out going outdoors and spending time with others.
        May I ask you for a small favor? If you could spare a minute of your time to look at my blog and provide some feedback, it would be invaluable to me. Thank you very much.

Leave a Reply