What Is Dissociation?

Female looking out of window, with her reflection looking back at her
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Dissociation is a psychological experience in which people feel disconnected from their sensory experience, sense of self, or personal history. It is usually experienced as a feeling of intense alienation or unreality, in which the person suddenly loses their sense of where they are, who they are, of what they are doing.

Dissociation often occurs in response to trauma and seems to have a protective aspect in that it allows people to feel disconnected from traumatic events. This is sometimes described as an "out-of-body" experience. However, dissociation can be distressing when it continues to occur, even when people are engaged in everyday activities.

Dissociation can also be an effect of psychoactive drugs. Some drugs, such as dissociative drugs, which can be used as "date rape" drugs, have a strong dissociative effect, which others, such as alcohol and cannabis cause dissociation in some people but not others. The experience of dissociation occurring as a result of taking ketamine is known as a "k-hole."

Dissociation has been used therapeutically to gain more control of mental states in the approach of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

Dissociation can also be a symptom of mental illnesses such as "Dissociative Identity Disorder."

Pronunciation: dis-sO-see-A-shun

Also Known As: disassociation, zoning out, out-of-body experience, k-hole

Examples: After several days of intense cannabis use, Jane began to experience dissociation from her surroundings.

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