The Link Between Trauma and Dissociative Disorders

By:  Dr. Shari Kim

EMDRIA Consultant

The human brain is amazing, and we don’t even fully grasp its potential. One of the truly spectacular things it can do is to protect us from things that are too traumatic to hold.  

As we experience traumatic events, we experience a variety of responses. Sometimes, when those events become overwhelming, our brain has the capacity to build compartments within itself to hold those events. The depth of those compartments may vary, meaning we might be able to hold things in them only for short periods of time before they pop back out. At other times, our brains may build them so deeply that we can no longer access them by our own volition. Sometimes our compartments take on lives of their own, developing unique identities.

As we explore how our brain compartmentalizes trauma in this way, it starts to become clear how this process makes us dissociate. The more compartments we build, the easier it is to become lost in them. When...

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The Continuum of Dissociation

dissociative disorders Oct 12, 2023

By:  Shari Kim, Ph.D.

EMDRIA Consultant

Although we think of the various types of dissociative disorders as being a series of separate diagnoses, dissociation is really a continuum. On one end of the continuum is the sort of commonplace and infrequent dissociation that most people have, like absorption. Imagine you are driving or riding in a car somewhere, lost in thought, not really paying attention to where you are. Suddenly you look up and realize you are halfway to your destination and don’t remember the last 10 minutes of your travel. That type of dissociation is absorption.

 At the next level of dissociation are the types that come with PTSD, which are depersonalization and derealization. Depersonalization is the feeling of living in someone else’s body or being disconnected from one’s body, while derealization is the feeling of walking around in a dream state. Depersonalization might manifest as looking in the mirror and seeing an unfamiliar face...

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