The reason why people abuse drugs and alcohol varies. Currently, quite a bit of research points to trauma leading to chemical dependency. Trauma is a painful experience that shocks the body. This can be neglect from a caregiver as a child, physical or sexual abuse, witnessing a death or engaging in combat. When an individual registers pain of great gravity the body kicks into survival mode by disconnecting the person from the experience in order to preserve their psyche. How this works is the brain will go into a dream like state. The person is awake, but similar to a dream they are watching themselves and their experiences like a movie, not actually feeling them.
Dissociation is a survival mechanism and for the time being a good thing. It helps the individual survive what could be a crippling experience. However, if the trauma isn’t addressed and processed the person may register day-to-day stress as trauma and continue to disassociate from reality. The recurrence of detaching from reality can develop into a dissociative disorder.
Symptoms of Dissociative Disorder:
- Amnesia. Problems with memory and difficulty recalling personal information.
Example: The inability to retell personal stories with emotion and details.
- Disconnection from oneself. Feeling alone and unfamiliar with ones own body.
Example: Feeling anxiety when alone and struggling with bathing, eating and touching your own body.
- Derealization, a sense of disconnection from friends and family and the physical surroundings.
Example: Feeling as if you are watching a movie about yourself, but not physically or emotionally experiencing the surroundings and relationships.
- Identity confusion or inner struggle about one’s sense of self/identity.
Example: Feeling torn about one’s unique interests, opinions, skills, and weaknesses.
- Identity alteration and acting like a different person.
Example: Quickly copying another persons language, personality or clothing.
Treatment for Dissociative Disorder:
- Talk Therapy – Here the person puts the pieces of the traumatic experience back together, looks at it, processes it and lets it go.
- Diagnostic Behavior Therapy – This provides mindfulness tools to cope when the brain starts to disassociate.
- Breath-work – Practicing breathing techniques help an individual to feel grounded and become aware when they enter a dissociative state.
- Reaching out – Calling a friend or family member and sharing about the experience can also be grounding.
- Antidepressants – Antidepressants help for the a short period of time. However, talk therapy by means of re-experiencing the trauma and letting it go has proven most effective for long term recovery.