Dissociation is one of the many different responses someone may have during and/or after a traumatic or other overwhelming event. But, how to regulate dissociation is a more complex question to answer as it involves how the nervous system perceives threats and the different states of the nervous system. We will discuss how the nervous has evolved through the years for background information and then cover the above-mentioned topics.
Nervous System Constantly Works
Throughout the day, the nervous system constantly scans for threats. This occurs via what’s called neuroception. There are three different types of neuroception to include:
- Internal – the nervous system scans for internal sensations/pain that may indicate threat within the body.
- External – the nervous system constantly scans the environment we are in for possible cues of threat.
- Between others around us – our nervous system constantly scans other people’s nervous systems for cues of threat/dysregulation.
Neuroception is a remarkable unconscious skill that has evolved.
Different Nervous System States
The National Library of Medicine’s article on Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges indicates there are three different states within the autonomic nervous system. These different nervous system states include:
- Ventral State – where people feel open and can connect with others safely.
- Sympathetic State – this is the fight/flight phase where a person experiences a rush of hormones to either defend themself or flee.
- Dorsal State – this phase typically occurs due to ineffective attempts to fight or flee during a traumatic situation.
Additionally, the article above describes how our nervous systems develop and can self-regulate fluidly between these different nervous states. However, traumatic experiences can disrupt this fluid self-regulation thus creating rigidity and traumata-related symptoms. These symptoms can then create difficulty in someone’s life.
What Causes Dissociation?
Dissociation typically occurs when a traumatic event or overwhelming experience forces the nervous system to shift into the dorsal or shut-down state. Dissociation can also occur in sympathetic arousal; however, it is less likely.
When the nervous system moves into the dorsal state, one of the symptoms it may experience is dissociation. In referencing Stephen Porges in his article, The polyvagal theory: New insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system, this can occur because our body, internally, slows down to almost a standstill point. Thus, in this state, we can lose contact with reality.
Regulate Dissociation Symptoms
The major interventions to regulate and heal dissociation and decrease its occurrence stem from learning ways to manage and regulate the nervous system. Nervous system regulation can occur through a variety of therapy interventions, all specifically tailored to meet your individual needs. Two powerful therapy modalities to assist with nervous system regulation include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy. These forms of therapy can also help to heal trauma stored within the body.
Therapist Near DTC
At Revitalize Mental Health PLLC, Daniel Gospodarek is trained in EMDR therapy and is currently working towards the completion of his SE training to help others heal. If you are searching for a therapist to assist with nervous system regulation and healing, look no further. Submit an online form here or call us at 720.295.6703 to begin the therapeutic process.