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Dissociation and dissociative disorders

Explains what dissociation and dissociative disorders are, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Keep a journal

Keeping a journal may help you understand and remember different parts of your experience. It could:

  • Include writing and artwork you do at different times. If you have DID, you may write or make different kinds of art while experiencing different identity states
  • Help you become more aware of the different parts of your identity
  • Help you remember more about what happened in the gaps in your memory

Using a journal to express my inner turmoil helps me deal with it.

Try visualisation 

Visualisation is a way of imagining different scenes and environments. Doing this can help to soothe difficult feelings and thoughts. For example:

  • You might find that imagining you are wearing protective clothing helps you feel more relaxed in stressful situations.
  • It might help to imagine a place that feels safe to you (and your different identity states). When you feel anxious or threatened, you can imagine going to this place for peace and safety.

If you experience different identity states, you might be able to imagine a place where they can all meet and talk. Your therapist might be able to help you do this.

Try grounding techniques 

Grounding techniques can help you feel more connected to the present. They might help you cope with intrusive thoughts or difficult feelings, memories and flashbacks. You could try:

  • Breathing slowly while counting
  • Tuning into to different sounds around you
  • Walking barefoot and noticing how the ground feels
  • Wrapping yourself in a blanket and noticing how it feels around your body
  • Holding an ice cube or splashing cold water on your face
  • Touching something with an interesting texture or sniffing something with a strong smell

Focus on the sensations you are feeling right now. You might find it helpful to keep a box of things with different textures and smells. For example, you could include a blanket and some smooth stones.

It's strange because it took me a long time to realise that I didn't need to dissociate to keep myself safe. 

Think about practical strategies 

Dissociation can make day-to-day life hard. Practical strategies could help you cope, such as:

  • Wearing a watch with the time and date
  • Keeping a list of friends and family and their contact details
  • Writing notes to yourself in the house or on a whiteboard

Make a personal crisis plan

A personal crisis plan is a document you make when you're well. It explains what you'd like to happen if you're not well enough to make decisions about your treatment, or other aspects of your life. Sometimes it's called an 'advance statement'.

See our page on planning for a crisis for more information about making crisis plans.

Talk to people with similar experiences

  • Try peer support. Unfortunately, there aren't many peer support groups specifically for people with dissociative disorders. But you can contact First Person Plural for more information, and see our pages on peer support. Or you could try Mind's online peer support community, Side by Side.
  • Read about other people's experiences. If you don't want to talk, you may still find it helpful to read about other people's experiences. This might give you new perspectives or help you find ideas for coping with dissociation. You can read about others' experiences on online forums, like Mind's Side by Side community. Our pages on online mental health have more information about finding ways to connect with other people online.

Look after your wellbeing 

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. You might find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques. Our pages on coping with sleep problems and relaxation have more information.
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. Our pages on food and mood have more information.
  • Try to take some exercise. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. Our pages on physical activity have more information.

Depersonalisation, derealisation and dissociation are now only occasional features in my life. But when I am under a lot of stress or not sleeping properly, I find I dissociate more.

Dealing with stigma

Unfortunately, some people don't understand much about dissociation and dissociative disorders. And they may hold misconceptions about you. This can be upsetting, especially if the people who feel this way are family, friends or colleagues.

It's important to remember that you’re not alone. You don't have to put up with people treating you badly. Here are some options for you to think about:

  • Show people this information to help them understand more about dissociation and dissociative disorders.
  • Talk to other people who have dissociative disorders by going to a support group - or setting one up for yourself. See our peer support pages for more information.
  • Share your experience with others. Mind publishes blogs and video blogs (mental health selfies).
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights provide more information.

See our pages on stigma and misconceptions for more information. 

This information was published in January 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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