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Dissociation is one of the many mental health patterns we can develop, especially after we’ve endured crippling trauma, grief, loss, and other painful experiences. Dissociation can lead to habitual behavioral patterns that we often aren’t conscious of but that can become our default habits. It can morph into anxiety disorders or identity/personality disorders. Dissociation refers to any of the numerous ways in which we emotionally numb and detach ourselves from our painful thoughts and feelings. When we feel pain, we often want to avoid it, so we numb ourselves to it and detach from it. We might temporarily zone out and place ourselves in an alternate reality. We might become so disconnected from ourselves that we block, suppress and sometimes forget entire parts of our lives, vivid memories, and important events. We might disconnect from the things we’re doing, the thoughts we’re having, and the emotions we’re feeling, all in a subconscious attempt to prevent ourselves from feeling more pain and experiencing more trauma. We can develop memory problems such as amnesia, causing us to be unable to remember our loved ones, even forgetting who we are. Our trauma was so debilitating, so blinding, so all-consuming that we compartmentalize and separate out the various parts of ourselves, determining which we can handle and which we can’t. Those that are too painful get suppressed, but when our energy is forcibly contained in this way, it can cause us substantial mental, emotional and physical pain, illness, energetic imbalances, and spiritual crises. How does dissociation relate to our addictions?

When we’re so disconnected from ourselves that we are now dissociating and possibly developing dissociative disorders and/or other mental illnesses, we often aren’t lucid enough to even realize that we have a problem with addiction. We might be suppressing and avoiding our pain, and our addictive coping mechanisms, so much so that we’ve dissociated from them. Often our judgment is impaired, our thinking isn’t clear, and we’re not fully functional. We aren’t clear enough or connected within ourselves enough, to know we have a problem or to see just how bad it’s gotten. We turn to our drugs of choice to further numb ourselves and detach even more. We’re desperate not to feel our pain. We become dissociative by default, and we use denial, dishonesty, avoidance, and suppression as other coping mechanisms to distract ourselves, to self-medicate, and to run away from our addictions.

 With dissociation, our perception of the truth and of reality can be inconsistent. The truth can recede completely from our consciousness, or it might come back in waves. The more we work to heal from the underlying traumas that caused our dissociative coping mechanisms and patterns in the first place, the more we’ll be able to stop them from taking over our lives and exacerbating our addictions.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.