Dissociation with Anxiety Symptoms and Panic Attacks

March 1, 2015 Sherry Polley

What happens when you have dissociative identity disorder, anxiety symptoms and panic attacks? Learn about how these mental illnesses play off each other.

Dissociation is an anxiety symptom that is part of dissociative identity disorder (DID). Sometimes dissociation is not splitting between personalities, but only losing touch with reality for a time. Many people who suffer from DID also experience other mental illnesses, or mental illness symptoms. One that I have noticed is anxiety. Dissociation and anxiety symptoms sometimes causes my panic attacks.

Last week I was in my therapist’s office, as I often am. We were discussing the resistance that I have in my life and the fact that I avoid much of my life. It has become a big problem in my life and it is one that I am not ready to face, yet. I was deeply triggered by the conversation and began to have a panic attack. I felt like my heart was racing and I began gasping for air. My therapist kept talking to me.

Dissociation With Anxiety Symptoms and Panic Attacks

What happens when you have dissociative identity disorder, anxiety symptoms and panic attacks? Learn about how these mental illnesses play off each other.

All of a sudden, apparently to escape the panic attack, I slipped into a familiar dissociative state. Before this day, I haven’t dissociated for about two-and-a-half years, due to medication. I have been off of that medication, however, for about three months now. So, apparently, the dissociation is coming back. I realized, out of nowhere, that the room was becoming very crisp looking, and everything seemed to slow down. I was no longer gasping for breath but I couldn’t understand what my therapist was saying.

I had dissociated to escape the anxiety symptoms, the panic attack. I told my therapist that I was dissociating and I tried to ground myself. I came out of the dissociation and immediately flew back into the panic attack. Then I dissociated again, came out of it again, and went back into the panic attack. I managed to slow my breathing and to stop thinking about the topic that had triggered the entire episode. I calmed down and explained what had happened to my therapist.

Dissociation With Anxiety Symptoms Is Scary, But Not Dangerous

It was a wild ride I had that day. It shows the way that anxiety and dissociation can play off of each other. Dissociation can be triggered by panic attacks. I didn’t mean to dissociate, it just happened automatically. This lets me know that my dissociative disorder is not gone for good, but was just being treated by the medication.

I will need to face the things that triggered me. I may have panic attacks and dissociation as we discuss these things in the future. I am grateful to know that panic attacks, anxiety symptoms and dissociation are not dangerous. They are scary, but they cannot hurt me.

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APA Reference
Polley, S. (2015, March 1). Dissociation with Anxiety Symptoms and Panic Attacks, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Sherry Polley

Paul Ellis
August, 27 2019 at 3:33 pm

I began my dissociation at work one day out of nowhere sudenly and it was very physical where I ended up in hospital 3 times and had lots of tests even brain scans co a I couldn't walk sometimes thinking I was rising 1year over I have same symptoms of emission but not so physical because now it's just dail y panic attacks because I'm telling myself is it hapjng again nd it's a cycle

Janine rawlins
September, 6 2018 at 2:26 pm

OMG If you are having dissociative attack or panic attack in your therapist office you should feel safe! I am not that lucky. And I would question your therapist quailifications if they were not able to imeadately recognize this and why are you being so triggered. J Rawlins

March, 20 2018 at 6:26 pm

I have had several traumatic events in my life. When my granddaughter was 4 there was a situation at the pool. She jumped in the water and another child jumped on her back. My granddaughter is a strong swimmer, even at that age. They were very close to the ladder, but the child that jumped on top of her was scared and would not let go of my granddaughter. I watched this all, to the point that they started spinning, obviously in trouble. Throughout this time I could not speak, move, nothing. Thankfully the lifeguard did not freeze and was able to get them out of the water safely. Only at that moment could I move. I have felt such guilt that I was unable to help. Is this likely to happen again?

October, 19 2017 at 6:29 am

Hi. You mentioned being off medication when your dissociation symptoms returned. Do you mind telling us what medication that was? Thank you.

August, 9 2017 at 1:18 pm

I noticed my anxiety when I drive and go into panic modes. I believe that maybe dissociating while driving. My issues stem from ritual abuse and other stuff. I'm 53 and I'm just learning more about this, thought this demon was gone after I had and beat stage 4a cancer. Ugh, I was wrong.

July, 12 2017 at 2:23 am

I have always felt a disconnection in my life. The feeling of numbness has become a norm for me. I have noticed recently I am having symptoms of anxiety perhaps panic attacks. I was diagnosed at 13 with depression, mental illness runs in my family. My mother was severely depressed with anxiety, she had to be medicated. I'm aware of the anxiety now, I'm just learning about the dissociation disorder and it explains so much and I use it for a defense mechanism...its like a reflex, it just kicks in. My memory has become pretty bad, I'm aware of my surroundings but I feel very spaced out, I hear people talking but my head as trouble processing it like a state of confusion almost.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Piyush pabani
December, 12 2018 at 11:08 am

Same problem

May, 24 2017 at 3:04 pm

I was wondering what the medication you mentioned that kept you from dissociation was? I am also wondering why you stopped taking it? Thanks.

Kary Smith
January, 30 2017 at 10:25 am

Both panic and dissassociation can be dangerous. There are studies being done that show, over time, the stress tha panic attacks involved in panic disorder does, in fact have a negative affect on the cardiovascular system and dissassociation can cause memory lapses and behaviors that we would not normally engage in.
There is a bigger link between mental illness and our bodies than was previously assumed.

kim denson
October, 29 2015 at 8:01 pm

I have been married many happy years to my spouse, something has shifted. His memory is really not good. Is it possible for an affair

May, 22 2015 at 10:09 am

It's not the panic that causes the dissociation. It's the dissociation that causes the panic. And that is because of some serious life event you are not ready to build into yourself.
Panic is not dangerous, anxiety is nothing. What is serious is the stuff you haven't faced. I wish you much courage and strength.

March, 4 2015 at 11:36 am

.sherry, I disagree with your comment "Dissociation is not dangerous ". Dissociation has been dangerous to me when in an altered state of consciousness "I" have left home for days or wandered off when in an altered state.
So there are times it can be dangerous.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sherry Polley
March, 4 2015 at 4:14 pm

You are right about that. I suppose what I meant to say is that it is usually not dangerous. I was talking about the times when you are aware of your dissociation, not when you are switching to another state and are unaware that you are dissociating. Those times, when you are aware of it, are usually not dangerous. I should have been more specific.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 25 2018 at 5:03 am

I have something to contradict that statement' if you remember annotating from school good realize she meant it can't physically hurt your health or physical being alone because our bodies all adapt the same psychologically when it comes to stress and fear we develope very distinct traits that you can find in almost all trama victems. Some are more severe then others and everyone has there own way of coping but when it comes to dissociation or body and mind use that as a defense strategy rather than a self destructive strategy therefore won't hurt you.. Us victims develope these disorders to escape the she's and issues at hand when there's no other place to run, yes you can dissociate and by chance harm yourself, but that's due to your inner self that never changes(your higher conscious) of your true conscious is more destructive in nature your body will allow itself to self distruct because your mind reads it as its nature. however my over all point is naturally, these disorders take you to where your body and concious feel most fit, and with most people that's in a positive place but some people aren't wired that way , they gain there positive energy by feeding off negative energy so therefore there comfort zone is negative to most people

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