Can Anxiety Cause Dissociation?

Can anxiety cause dissociation?

A lot of people may experience dissociation without even realising it throughout their lifetime, but what is dissociation?

Dissociation is the process of dissociating oneself from a particular situation. In other words, someone often tries to escape reality and avoid a particular conflict. Caused by too much stress, dissociation is a coping mechanism for the body.

Dissociation is, usually involuntarily from an individual and is associated with mental health issues such as:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Other events can also trigger anxiety-led dissociation including:

  • Victim of an assault
  • Having an severe accident
  • Victim of a natural disaster
  • Suffering from sexual or physical abuse
  • Taking part in military combat

The burden of dissociation can result in disrupting everyday life, becoming extremely unhealthy for an individual. Someone suffering from dissociation can feel detached from friends, family and loved ones, often feeling distant and exhibiting out of character behaviours.

In this article, we extend our research further into anxiety-led dissociation as well as the common triggers, feelings of anxiety dissociation and common tell tale signs to look out for.

Feelings of Anxiety Dissociation

Feelings of anxiety dissociation can come in several types of forms including derealisation, identity alteration and identity alteration. We list below several examples of each and how they may make an individual feel.


Derealisation: the idea or feeling that the world around you is not real.

Someone experiencing derealization may exhibit these feelings as seen below:

  • Seeing the world as senseless or lifeless
  • Seeing structures or objects change colour, shape and/or size 
  • Seeing other people as robots, regardless that you know they aren’t


Depersonalisation: an individual feels unreal, detached, and often, unable to feel emotion.

Someone experiencing depersonalization may exhibit these feelings as seen below:

  • Feeling as though you can watch yourself from a third person or as though you are in a movie
  • Feeling as though you are drifting away
  • Feeling as though you are watching your behaviour/emotions
  • Feeling separated from either your emotions or body
  • Feeling uncertain of the boundaries between close friends, family and loved ones

Identity Alteration

Identity alteration: The feeling of an individual’s identity changing due to the individual struggling to understand who they are.

Someone experiencing identity alteration may exhibit these feelings as seen below:

  • Using different names to identify themselves with
  • Speaking in particularly different voice(s) unlike their normal voice
  • Acting as another person
  • Acting as a child

Examples of Dissociation Triggers

The triggers of dissociation within anxiety can depend completely on the individual, however common triggers identified are:

  • Thoughts
  • Memories
  • Surroundings
  • Actions
  • Identity

In terms of how a person may start acting in their daily lives could significantly stray from their normal behaviours. Some of these behaviours may include:

  • Seeming distracted and not “in the room” or fully present
  • Seeming dazed or disoriented when speaking or working
  • Do things on autopilot
  • Seem dreamy or move slowly
  • Speaking out of character
  • Acting out-of-character things
  • No sense of time
  • Missing key aspects or significant lapses with their memory

Treatment Options for Dissociation Anxiety

Although dissociation anxiety is not a diagnosable disorder by itself, it relates closely to symptoms exhibited from anxiety. There are no specific medications to treat dissociation anxiety, some prescriptions including antipsychotics, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications are available to help reduce the symptoms of dissociation anxiety.

Other options for managing dissociation anxiety such as an infographic from VeryWellMind recommend:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep (7 hours+ per day minimum)
  • Practising grounding techniques
  • Reducing coming into contact with any known triggers 
can anxiety cause dissociation San Diego


Getting Professional Treatment

Taking the first step can be tough, but with the right support and care around you, the road to recovery looks bright! We strongly recommend anyone that is suffering with dissociation anxiety to receive professional medical help.

If you are within the local San Diego, California area and have read anything within this article that resonates with yourself or a loved one, please reach out. Our team of rehabilitation San Diego specialists are here on hand to help you or your loved one every step of the way. 

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