Are You Disassociating or Dissociating? Why the distinction matters.

In everyday language, both of these words are essentially the same. They are synonyms that mean to stop associating, to cut ties, or not to join in.

Dissociation and disassociation look and sound similar. They are also spelled similarly, and many people pronounce them the same way. Generally, it’s okay to use them interchangeably, except in psychology, where the word dissociate is most often used.

In psychological terms, dissociating means experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: feeling disconnected from yourself and the world around you, forgetting about certain periods, events, or personal information, feeling uncertain about who you are, having multiple distinct Identities, or feeling little or no physical pain. 

For some people, periods of dissociation can last for a relatively short time - a few hours up to a few months, usually as a result of, at most, a traumatic event.

If you have these symptoms, it could be an indication of a dissociative disorder and seeking support from a mental health professional should be your next step.

There are several treatments available, including talk therapy, trauma-informed protocols, and medication.

The next time you are conversing and hear the word disassociate, it is likely part of everyday language or lexicon, meaning not to associate with something or someone. Suppose you are talking with a mental health professional and share that you are feeling disconnected, separate from, or feel like you are outside of your body, mind, or experience. It may be a case of dissociation, and further exploration may be required.