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  • Writer's pictureJessica Trainor

Dissociation Nation: Understanding Dissociation After Childhood Sexual Abuse

Dissociation can be a complex and challenging experience, especially for those who have survived childhood sexual abuse. It's like navigating through a maze of emotions, memories, and sensations, often feeling lost or disconnected from oneself. As a therapist, I've witnessed firsthand the impact that childhood trauma can have on an individual's sense of self and their ability to cope with everyday life. In this blog post, we'll explore what dissociation is, how it relates to childhood sexual abuse, and most importantly, how therapy can be a powerful tool in the journey towards healing.

So let’s start with - What is Dissociation?

Dissociation is a coping mechanism that the mind employs to protect itself from overwhelming or traumatic experiences. It's like pressing the pause button on reality, allowing the individual to detach from their thoughts, feelings, or surroundings. While dissociation can be adaptive in the short term, enabling someone to survive intolerable situations, it can become problematic when it interferes with daily functioning or disrupts one's sense of identity.

For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, dissociation often becomes a survival strategy. It's a way to escape the horror of the moment, to distance oneself from the pain and shame of what is happening. Many survivors describe feeling like they're watching the abuse happen to someone else, as if they're floating above their own bodies, disconnected from the reality of the situation. This dissociative response can persist long after the abuse has ended, impacting relationships, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

Living with dissociation can feel like living in a fog, where moments of clarity are fleeting and elusive. It can manifest in various ways, from gaps in memory or perception to feeling detached from oneself or the world around them. Survivors may struggle with feelings of numbness, emptiness, or confusion, finding it difficult to trust their own thoughts and emotions. This sense of detachment can also extend to relationships, making it challenging to form deep connections or feel truly present with others.

While dissociation can feel overwhelming, it's important to remember that healing is possible. Therapy can provide a safe and supportive space for survivors to explore their experiences, process their emotions and experiences, and reconnect with themselves. Through techniques such as grounding exercises/emotion regulation and trauma-focused interventions such as EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and Brainspotting, individuals can learn to manage dissociative symptoms and reclaim a sense of agency over their lives.

In therapy, we work collaboratively to understand the underlying causes of dissociation, addressing the trauma that may be driving this coping mechanism. By gradually processing and integrating painful memories, survivors can begin to make sense of their experiences and find new ways of coping with distress. Therapy offers opportunities for building resilience, strengthening self-esteem, and fostering healthy relationships, empowering survivors to live fuller, more authentic lives.

If you're struggling with dissociation as a result of childhood sexual abuse, know that you're not alone, and help is available. Therapy can provide a pathway towards healing, offering support, validation, and hope for the future. Remember, healing is a journey, and it's okay to take things one step at a time. You deserve to reclaim your sense of self and live a life that is truly yours.



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