18 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Dissociation

Many people may not be familiar with dissociation — a mental process that causes a lack of connection between a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. It is often described as “losing touch with reality,” like losing track of time, daydreaming, getting lost in a particular activity, or in more chronic cases, it can sometimes be a sign of a dissociative disorder.

Because some people aren’t as well-versed in dissociation, it might be easy for them to confuse someone experiencing dissociation with them being distant, uninterested or forgetful. That is why we asked out Mighty mental health community to tell us thing people don’t realize they’re doing because of dissociation. Because when we talk about it, we can continue to build a community where people feel more understood and supported.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “My total loss of memory. It’s hard for me to even perform everyday tasks at work because I can’t remember.” — Bre B.

2. “I keep smiling and nodding while people talk, but they don’t know I’m drifting, that my ears are buzzing, that my hand is searching for a flat surface to ground myself. Many times I come to myself in locations I don’t remember walking to.” — Sherry L.

3. “I stare at people but can’t tell because I’m stuck in flashbacks. It has caused a lot of confrontation because I am not in the present when it happens.” — Carmen A.

4. “I just stand and do nothing because I feel I separate myself from my body.” — Jules F.

5. “Spacing out. People would think I am disrespectful for not quite listening to what they said and would only ask what just happened alon…g the way.” — Bas A.

6. “I lose my ability to communicate with anyone but myself. The world happens in parallel to me and I am not a part of it. I can only spiral, thinking negative thoughts or thinking, ‘I need to get out of this, be present!’ There’s nothing to do but wait sometimes.” — Jacob K.

7. “I don’t see things in front of me properly. I see them but it’s like I cannot comprehend their purpose.” — Selena P.

8. “Forgetting what I’ve said from minutes ago. And then saying it again.” — Nons D.

9. “I burn food a lot. I put something on, dissociate, and then end up snapping back into reality when I smell burning.” — Beth L.

10. “I often say ‘I feel drunk but without the fun parts,’ like everything’s slightly off. Or when I arrive somewhere and I say ‘I have no idea how I got here,’ generally I’ve zoned out for the entire drive.” — Katy C.

11. “Taking a very long shower. I tend to pull away from myself in the shower because I have a chance to let my mind wander.” — Joe S.

12. “When I’m home alone I can accidentally go catatonic and it will last for hours. Then when my partner gets home they don’t understand how I managed to do nothing all day. I’ve done this since childhood. I’d be cleaning my room, playing in my room, reading. Then suddenly it’s almost like I’m asleep but I’m awake. I sit there and five minutes go by, but it’s been five hours. When I don’t go catatonic, people think I am sad or about to make a scene. If I’m driving I won’t remember driving home. I’ll just remember getting there. I talk at people constantly to keep it from happening because if I’m quiet too long, I disassociate.” — Ashley H.

13. “Forgetting to talk to [others], not remembering really anything, spacing out and acting uninterested in conversation or activities. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until afterwards. It ruins a lot of relationships for me and creates plenty of miscommunication and frustration.” — Bri R.

14. “I become very blunt when talking to people which leads them to believe I’m rude, even though what’s really happening is that I am unable to feel my emotions and sympathize with them.” — Skye G.

15. “Touching things around [me], to make sure [I’m] not dreaming.” — Sara A.

16. “My perception of events gets all out of whack. I forget the order in which things happened or who actually said what in a conversation. It can lead to arguments, after which I realize that my reality, at certain times, is a far cry from reality as it actually is for the people around me.” — Erin P.

17. “Sometimes it seems like I back out of a conversation midway and have lost interest, but really my mind can’t tell what’s real anymore. It can seem like I become bothered, disingenuous or air-headed, but really I am trying to decipher if anything real is happening at all.” — Sarah C.

18. “Tapping my palms with alternating fingers to ground. Starting blankly at nothing. Using a fidget toy or gemstone. Not paying attention or asking them to repeat what they are saying.” — Chloe D.

Can you relate? What would you add?

Thinkstock photo via Joyce Huis

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

This Prescription-Themed Home Decor Glamorizes Decades of Psychiatric Drug Abuse

Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s Associate Mental Health Editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.  On Monday, interior designer Jonathan Adler was criticized on Instagram for glamorizing prescription drug abuse after posting [...]
Blonde woman drinking coffee.

When Mental Illness Makes It Hard Not to Be in Control

I live with depression, an eating disorder and anxiety, and I appreciate when I can keep things under control. Even if it’s just a simple thing, like locking the door as soon as I leave home. Every morning I have the same routine, making sure everything is in place and sorted before I head to work. [...]
televangelist pat robertson

Why This Televangelist's Comments About Mental Health and the Texas Shooting Are So Problematic

Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s Associate Mental Health Editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.  On Monday’s episode of “The 700 Club,” a talkshow on the Christian Broadcasting Network, televangelist and host Pat [...]
person stands with their head down in a cloud of smoke

To Those Who Choose Not to Openly Share Their Mental Health Struggles

Due to the silence, shame and secrecy that has commonly surrounded mental illness for centuries, a new movement  is emerging, focused on publicly sharing our struggles, which is both helpful and good. I fully support bringing these struggles into the light and removing the shame and stigma attached to them. It is an important step [...]