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Someone I Love Is Experiencing Dissociation: How Can I Help?


Watching a loved one go through a mental health crisis or learn to manage a new diagnosis can be challenging. You want to help but may not know how. Unfortunately, someone struggling with a mental illness, such as dissociation disorder, must be willing and open to help. If not, the assistance will not fix anything. However, if your loved one has asked for help or is open to it, there are ways you can encourage and help them while they learn to manage their dissociation.

What Is Dissociation?

Your mind and body may do things without your conscious realization to protect you. This usually happens in moments of severe trauma. Dissociation is one of those steps your brain takes. When someone is dissociating, they disconnect from their thoughts, feeling, memories, or sense of identity.

The Range of Dissociation Disorders

While a person can dissociate to protect themselves, some people with severe trauma may develop one of three dissociative disorders. It is essential to be educated on what your loved one is experiencing if you want to provide help.

Dissociative Amnesia

With dissociative amnesia, a person realizes they are experiencing a lapse in memory. However, the event was so traumatic or stressful that the person dissociates. This can cause memory loss for days, weeks, and sometimes years. Dissociative amnesia can cause patchy memories, trouble remembering entire life events, and specific memory loss, like a person or year.

Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder

When someone has this type of dissociative disorder, they report feeling detached from their own life. People may feel like they do not know or recognize themselves. This can cause further issues engaging in their lives. Someone with depersonalization-derealization disorder may struggle with concentrating and memory retention.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Previously known as multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder (DID) is where someone develops one or more identities or personalities. However, dissociative identity is more accurate to what occurs for a person with DID.

A person with multiple identities may switch between them involuntarily. They can have different characters, ways of acting, or body movement. DID is the body’s way of coping with extreme trauma. When a person switches from one identity to another, it protects the first identity from having to experience or remember the event.

Tips for Helping a Loved One With Dissociation

If someone is experiencing dissociation, that can be a sign of a deeper issue. Dissociation symptoms, in some cases, mimic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or DID. Encouraging your loved one to seek Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment in Irvine, or any of our mental health locations in California, may be the best option. However, there are small things you can do to help.

Grounding Techniques

An aspect of dissociation is a disconnection from reality. It can therefore be helpful for the person to practice grounding techniques or coping skills. The purpose of grounding techniques is to help a person connect back to the physical world. This can help them reconnect their mind to the present.

Examples of grounding techniques include the following:

  • Sitting outside with the person, legs in the grass or on concrete, putting pressure on or massaging their hands
  • Having the person sit on a chair, feet flat on the ground, hands flat on thighs, and put mild pressure onto their shoulders
  • Mental games or puzzles, such as counting, reciting something, describing objects, or describing objects around the person

Decrease Stressors

Increases in stress can cause a person to dissociate. Help your loved one to lessen the frequency of dissociation by finding ways to decrease stressors. You can do small things or help them with the thing that causes extreme anxiety, such as grocery shopping. Also, allowing them room to make mistakes or not be present is important in alleviating stress.

Let Them Complete Tasks by Themselves

Since an aspect of dissociative disorders is a lack of identity or connection to themselves, you can help a loved one by encouraging them to do things for themselves. This can help them be more in the present. These do not have to be difficult tasks, but smaller ones, like caring for their living area.

Treatment Programs That Help With Dissociation

Encouraging a loved one to seek treatment may include helping them research treatment options. There are many programs and facilities out there, and it can be hard to know which one to choose. Alter Behavioral Health is an excellent place to start. Depending on your loved ones’ needs or disorders, there are two avenues they can take.


While in inpatient programs, a person will work on building trust between them and their therapist and treatment team. With trust, they can work together to identify sources of trauma and stabilize emotions. Having healthy, consistent meals, rest, physical care, and overall wellness allow a person to focus on healing while still getting all their needs met.

The Irvine residential program provides consistent monitoring. This is another benefit, as someone who struggles with dissociation or a dissociative disorder may also engage in self-harm. Alter Behavioral Health helps a person plan and stick to a plan of safety.


Some trauma can stick with you for life. Ongoing care, with psychotherapy and medication management, can be found in the outpatient program at Alter Behavioral Health, located in Laguna Beach.

Outpatient treatment is designed to support a person with their symptoms while living their lives. To combat regression, retraumatization, or stressors inducing disorder symptoms, continued outpatient treatment can be extremely beneficial. Facilities offer different options for outpatient treatment, usually combining a couple of hours of group therapy and individual therapy sessions. This support lasts for as long as the person needs to heal.

Are you struggling with knowing where to start with mental health treatment? Does it feel like all of the facilities promise the same outcomes? With Alter Behavioral Health, there are no false promises but achievable outcomes. Through highly structured clinical programs, evidence-based interventions, and a focus on maintaining and improving functioning abilities, you receive the help you specifically need. At Alter Behavioral Health, our compassionate team is waiting for you and your loved ones to lean on. No one should have to manage a mental health disorder alone. Our team is here for you. Contact us today to start the conversation. Let our team welcome you and help you start working towards your goals.

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