December 11, 2023

Complex PTSD And Dissociation: How To Cope With Trauma.

Exploring complex PTSD and dissociation, understanding the impact, the path to healing, and the importance of seeking help.

By Annie Wright|Trauma
Complex PTSD And Dissociation: How To Cope With Trauma.

Complex trauma can be a hefty burden to bear. 

The enduring emotional wounds remain, their intensity undiminished, even years after the initial trauma.

The mind copes with such intense and repeated trauma through dissociation. 

Dissociation is the brain’s mechanism to create distance between the individual and the traumatic experiences.

While this coping mechanism may seem helpful in the short term, it is not a healthy response to trauma. 

In this essay, we will delve into dissociation in the context of complex PTSD, its impact on individuals, and the importance of seeking help from a qualified therapist for resolution.

Understanding Dissociation.

Dissociation is a psychological defense mechanism used by the brain to protect an individual from distressing thoughts, memories, and feelings associated with traumatic experiences, especially in cases of complex PTSD. 

When traumatic memories and emotions become too overwhelming, the brain attempts to create a separation between the individual and the trauma, isolating and walling off these distressing experiences to prevent them from affecting other aspects of life.

Memory Loss: A Barrier To Trauma.

One common way the mind copes with complex trauma is through memory loss. 

Individuals who have experienced complex trauma may find that they have little to no recollection of the traumatic events that occurred. 

They often draw a blank even when presented with evidence or reminders of their presence during these events. 

This memory loss can be profoundly confusing and frustrating for the individual. Still, it serves as a defense mechanism to shield them from the emotional distress associated with those traumatic memories.

This phenomenon is not a conscious choice but rather an automatic response of the brain to protect the individual from the overwhelming emotional burden of their traumatic experiences. 

However, while it may provide temporary relief, it does not address or resolve the underlying trauma.

Disconnection From The Body: Depersonalization-Derealization.

Depersonalization-derealization disorder manifests the brain’s adaptive response to complex PTSD. 

It encompasses a sense of detachment from oneself and the surrounding world.

In this state, individuals may experience a profound sense of disconnection from their bodies, as if they observe themselves from the outside. 

This sensation can lead to physical and emotional numbness and a sense of losing control over bodily functions and movements.

Depersonalization-derealization can be an unnerving and distressing experience, as individuals may feel like they are losing touch with reality and their sense of self. 

This disconnect is an attempt by the brain to create a barrier between the individual and the traumatic memories and emotions associated with complex PTSD.

The Consequences Of Dissociation.

While dissociation may serve as a temporary coping mechanism for complex trauma, it has long-term consequences that can significantly impact an individual’s well-being. 

Some of the potential consequences of dissociation include:

  • Impaired Functioning: Dissociation can interfere with an individual’s ability to function effectively. Memory lapses and disconnection from the body can lead to work, relationships, and self-care difficulties.
  • Emotional Dysregulation: Suppressing traumatic memories and emotions through dissociation can result in emotional dysregulation. Individuals may struggle to express their feelings and may experience intense mood swings.
  • Relationship Challenges: Dissociation can strain relationships, as loved ones may struggle to understand and support someone emotionally detached or experiencing memory gaps.
  • Increased Vulnerability: Without addressing the underlying trauma, individuals may remain vulnerable to future stressors and triggers, perpetuating the dissociation cycle.
  • Limited Self-Awareness: Dissociation can hinder self-awareness and prevent individuals from fully understanding how complex trauma has affected their lives. It may also impede personal growth and healing.

Seeking Help For Dissociation And Complex PTSD.

Treating dissociation and complex PTSD requires the expertise of a trained therapist who understands the intricacies of these issues.

Working with a therapist is essential because these challenges are deeply woven into an individual’s life story, often in ways not fully understood by the person experiencing them. 

Therapists provide valuable support, guidance, and a safe space for individuals to explore their trauma and its impact.

In therapy sessions, individuals can expect to:

  • Gain Understanding: A skilled therapist can help individuals understand the underlying causes of dissociation and complex PTSD. This process often involves exploring past traumatic experiences and their effects on the present.
  • Emotional Support: Therapy offers a source of emotional support and reassurance. Individuals can share their experiences without judgment and feel understood and validated.
  • Connect The Dots: Therapists help individuals connect the dots between past trauma and current challenges. This process is essential for resolving unresolved trauma and building resilience.
  • Learn Coping Strategies: Therapists teach coping strategies and techniques to manage dissociation and emotional dysregulation. These strategies empower individuals to regain control over their lives.
  • Promote Healing: The ultimate goal of therapy is to promote healing and recovery. With the guidance of a therapist, individuals can work through their traumatic experiences and develop healthier ways of coping.

Complex PTSD and dissociation are challenging and interconnected issues that affect many individuals who have experienced trauma. 

While dissociation may temporarily escape distressing memories and emotions, it is not a healthy long-term coping mechanism. 

The consequences of dissociation, such as impaired functioning and emotional dysregulation, can significantly impact an individual’s life.

Seeking help from a qualified therapist is essential for understanding and addressing dissociation and complex PTSD. 

If you’re wondering about seeking therapy to recover from complex PTSD and Dissociation, and you connected with any part of this post and are presently searching for a counselor to help with your unresolved trauma, we would be honored to offer our support to you.

At Evergreen Counseling, we understand the importance of finding a therapist who resonates with you.

We invite you to take the next step toward your well-being by booking a complimentary 20-minute consultation call with us

Explore our website, reach out to us here, or call us at 510-373-2723 to schedule your consultation.


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