Sexual assault or abuse is a horrific experience. It brings emotional and physical trauma that can last a lifetime. The victims of sexual abuse usually create defense mechanisms for themselves. These mechanisms help the victims survive the incident of the abuse.
They, however, do not shut down once they have served their purpose. As a result, the victim keeps on using these defense mechanisms in other life situations. The victim’s life quality is thus negatively affected.
Dissociation is also a defense mechanism of victims of sexual assault. Dissociation is a surviving tool but it severely affects one’s overall mental health. In extreme situations, people may create different identities to disconnect with their reality.
Pakistani society experienced the worst wave of sexual violence in the recent years. 93% women in Pakistan have to face some sort of sexual violence in their lifetime. Around 70% of women face sexual violence by their own intimate partners. Here is a look at dissociation and tips on how to rectify it.
What is dissociation?
When a person gets sexually assaulted, the body and mind is set into fight or flight mode. In reality, sometimes none of the two responses is possible. The victim might not be able fight the abuser. Fleeing the situation may also not be possible in some situations.
In such cases, the victim’s mind disconnects itself from the body. This process of disconnecting with the physical reality is a trick to shun the trauma out. This is called dissociation and it is very common in abuse victims.
How to cope with it?
People usually develop dissociation during an unfortunate event. It can however, become a standard response to all other encounters. Dissociation can thus send victims into deep depression. They may feel alienated from their surroundings. Dissociation can become a hindrance in developing deep relationships making life difficult.
Fortunately, dissociation can be rectified. Here are some ways to deal with dissociation
Grounding: A main sign of dissociation is to be transported to past during encounters. The patients usually describe it as, feeling themselves out of their body. A technique that can help to stay in the moment is called grounding.
Grounding involves, feeling anything in the environment through touch. This touch is supposed to make the patient aware of his/her immediate surroundings. The realization of one’s environment can bring them back to the present and thus avoid dissociation.
Consciousness: Patients may not always notice that they are dissociating. This results in permanence of cognition pattern. Patients keep on dissociating in their closest relationships without knowing. This consequently, prolongs their depression.
One way to keep dissociation at bay is to train one’s mind to get alert at its occurrence. Learning about the symptoms of dissociation can actually help one pick up on it. Once there is awareness that dissociation is occurring then a conscious effort can be made to bring one’s self back.
Therapy: Therapy is absolutely necessary for people who are struggling with dissociation. Psychoanalytic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are most beneficial when it comes to trauma disorders such as dissociation.
If you are experiencing dissociation because of past trauma, you should visit a trauma counselor as soon as possible.
You can also book an appointment with a top psychiatrist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad or call our helpline at 042-3250-0444 to get directed to the specialists that can cater to your specific concerns.