What Does Dissociation Feel Like in DID?

July 14, 2020 Krystle Vermes

How do you know what dissociation feels like? Dissociative identity disorder (DID) comes with a wide range of symptoms, one of which is dissociation, but how do you know you aren’t just daydreaming? This is something that many people misunderstand when it comes to DID, and it can be the difference between receiving a DID diagnosis and continuing on with life without treatment.

My Personal Experience with Dissociation

Before I was diagnosed with DID, I didn’t think that my lapses in memory were a problem, until others started to notice. Friends and family would recall conversations we’ve had together, only for me to realize that I had no memory of them occurring. As it turned out, my brain had dissociated during those periods of time, leaving me at a loss as to what to do.

The reason why my mind was defaulting to dissociation wasn’t a big question for me that needed an immediate answer. Instead, I was more concerned with getting my memory back and preventing lapses from happening in the future. It wasn’t until my therapist brought up my memory lapses that I began to realize this was a symptom of something more serious.

So What Does Dissociation Feel Like?

To the average person, dissociation can feel like daydreaming. Imagine spacing out at your desk at the office, only to realize that you’ve lost 10 minutes of time.

Now imagine that happening multiple times per day, completely unaware of the world that is passing you by. Others start to notice, even more frequently than you.

Daydreaming can be a nice, relaxing way to zone out, but when it’s uncontrollable and unpredictable, it becomes a problem. Dissociation is a serious symptom of DID, and until it’s managed, it can be a major disruption in everyday life.

How Does One Manage Dissociation?

Unfortunately for those living with DID, dissociation is not always a choice. When the brain registers a threat of any sort (regardless of whether it is life-threatening), it immediately disconnects and begins dissociating in an attempt to shut down. The ultimate goal is survival, and the brain knows this coping mechanism best.

Through therapy, I have learned to get grounded when I am feeling anxiety, depression or other symptoms that I know may spur a dissociative episode. Knowing how to get into a mindful state, whether it’s through meditation or deep breathing, is essential to coping with DID.

That being said, it took me years to fully understand what triggered my dissociative episodes, and I am still learning how to manage the condition today. The ultimate goal should always be to heal, regardless of the pace. I have come to accept this, and as I continue to recover, it remains one of my largest motivating factors to date.

APA Reference
Vermes, K. (2020, July 14). What Does Dissociation Feel Like in DID?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Krystle Vermes

Krystle Vermes is a Boston-based freelance writer and editor who is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of mental health. Connect with Krystle on LinkedIn and her website.

Emily Farley
March, 31 2022 at 11:21 am

Do I dissociate when I'm talking forget the words what I'm trying to find a word having already had a millimetre sec before I was saying it, forget what I was talking about a lot, aski g what was I saying, time goes past me I dont know where it's gone although I dont go out to do this, throughout my childhood traumas I remember outside my body looking down, stooped driving because I didnt know how I got to places, I'm one of ten children living in one kitchen back then as I 67yrs old now one year apart from one another and I only remember little small memories, all went to both primary and secondary school I was in same play yard and dont remember any of them years at all not even in the home or on the outside now I think o rather have this infliction please let me know. Thankyou

August, 7 2020 at 7:48 pm

I have many hours, days, months, and at times years that are completely gone from memory.
I have always been this way, I think. Nothing has ever seemed real. As though life were a blank, empty sheet of paper. I recently experienced a severe case of a dissociative episode that lasted approximately 2 months, I think. We experience dissociative fugue states where we've traveled, by automobile, many, many miles covering a couple of states. "Waking up" is the most frightening, sometimes. Not being able to remember how you got to the beach hundreds of miles from home, only then to find us waking up in another state. Only knowing time by the rising or setting of the sun.(we weren't wearing watches at that time).
We have to work on these struggles in life. We will not survive the threats from some of the others if we don't .
All we can do is try...

August, 10 2020 at 1:20 pm

Hello there and thanks for writing in! I've had months that are completely gone from my memory as well, so don't feel alone. "Trying" sometimes is the hardest part, but I've learned to have hope on my healing journey.

January, 16 2024 at 10:30 pm

Thanks. We've begun participating in an online d.i.d. support group and hopeful.
Special thanks for the "trying". One of us has said "it is by trying that we succeed."

July, 26 2020 at 3:58 pm

I know that i used DID a lot as a child a m.o.t i had out of body exsperiences were i left my body at the age of 3 in exstremely painfull situation. I have never asked myself if i still do it but when i listened to you i recognize so many memory lapses through the years people are telling me or reminding me of conversations or events that they say i was present but i can not remember. This have made me wonder if im suffering from alzheimer

July, 27 2020 at 1:02 pm

Hi there! Memory lapses can be very scary, but I've found that by working with my mental healthcare provider and practicing grounding, I'm more likely to remember conversations and events later on! Hope that helps.

Jkim Winn
July, 20 2020 at 10:34 pm

Hi I really appreciate your topic as I have DID also. I lose time, get lost cause another part takes over and drives us to Timbuktu. Or a little one will come when it’s time to go home from work and we don’t remember how to drive! DID is stigmatized even within the mental health community among peers and providers. People can be almost scared of you if they know you have DID and think you’re going to act like Sybil. Which is bull, I don’t act that way at all. Thanks for your good info and I’ll try the grounding exercises. It helps just to communicate with another DID person. Peace, jkim

July, 21 2020 at 12:20 pm

I know the feeling, and you are very welcome! I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can reduce the stigma and provide additional support to others who have DID.

Leave a reply