Understanding the Dangers of Dissociating with Psoriatic Arthritis
Last updated: August 2023
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic and often debilitating autoimmune condition that affects all aspects of my life. It is important to recognize that coping mechanisms are essential in managing our health and well-being, but it is essential to be aware of how certain strategies may impact us negatively. One such strategy is dissociation, which can lead to increased physical and mental health issues. In this blog post, we will discuss the dangers of using dissociation as a coping mechanism for those dealing with psoriatic arthritis.
What is dissociation?
Dissociation is a psychological defense mechanism that occurs when a person experiences an overwhelming feeling or situation and attempts to detach from reality in order to cope. Dissociating can manifest itself in many ways; some people may experience a “spacing out” effect, while others may completely lose awareness of their surroundings for minutes, hours, or even days at a time.
How is dissociation dangerous with psoriatic arthritis?
Dissociating can feel almost like I am on autopilot, and although it can be a coping mechanism for difficult situations, I am aware of the dangers that it can cause. It affects not only my awareness of what is happening around me but also my actions and memories of conversations. If left unchecked, this way of coping could become dangerous to myself and those close to me; for this reason, I strive to stay connected to the present moment instead of subconsciously relying on dissociation as a way out.
What are the physical risks?
For those living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), utilizing dissociation as a coping mechanism is especially dangerous due to its physical effects on the body. When we try to escape reality by detaching ourselves emotionally, our body still remains in the present moment — which can increase inflammation throughout the body due to chronic stress levels associated with dissociative states. Additionally, over time it can strain our immune system due to lack of sleep or other side effects associated with extreme psychological detachment from reality.
What are the mental health risks?
Beyond physical risks associated with dissociating from reality, there are also significant mental health risks as well. Using this coping method results in not allowing myself time for self-reflection and healing; instead, my mind is simply trying to avoid difficult feelings and situations. This can lead to feelings of guilt and low self-worth over time, ultimately leading down a dangerous path towards more serious mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders if not addressed properly through professional help or therapy sessions.
How did I start dissociating from reality?
An early childhood traumatic experience prompted my mind to turn to dissociation as a form of protection. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized what was happening; my mind was creating a safe place in order to escape the horror. Unfortunately, this coping mechanism has extended itself into my life with psoriatic arthritis. While dissociating can avoid the pain for a moment, it carries dangers with it. I am not always aware of what took place around me during a dissociative episode. I lose time and special moments with people I care about. And because I am not aware of my pain level during those episodes, I often injure myself or make plans that do not fit with my psoriatic arthritis lifestyle.
What am I doing now to manage it?
In recognition of this habit, I am now engaging in therapy that focuses on helping me recognize when I am starting to dissociate and hopefully stop it from occurring. With guidance and perseverance, I have hope that I can reduce the number of times my mind resorts to this behavior as a way of avoiding physical pain.
Recognizing that I was relying too heavily on dissociation as a coping mechanism for psoriatic arthritis is an important step toward improving my overall health and well-being. While it is natural to want to detach from reality in times of extreme stress or pain — especially when living with a chronic illness like psoriatic disease — it is important to take steps toward confronting difficult situations head-on so that I do not fall into deeper patterns of unhealthy behavior that could have long-term consequences for both my physical and mental health down the road.
Visit NAMI to learn more about dissociative disorders and the treatments available.
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