Why Does Our Brain Dissociate and When Should We Seek Help?

Why does the brain dissociate? Delve into the mind and learn why our brain does this. Also, find out when to seek professional help.
Why Does Our Brain Dissociate and When Should We Seek Help?
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Diego Pereira.

Last update: 25 April, 2023

Why does our brain dissociate? To know the answer, we must have a solid basis for what “dissociation” really means. In effect, this is a state of detachment or disconnection from the world around us.

This includes the discontinuity of thoughts, the null perception of existence, and the disappearance of memories. In other words, the body is there, but the mind is not. And while this is not a sign of a serious health problem, it sometimes warns that it’s time to seek help from a specialist. Let’s take a look at why it happens and how to avoid it.

Why does our brain dissociate?

Why our brain dissociates is answered from several different perspectives. The truth is that it can occur as a defense mechanism when there are too many distressing situations as the body decides to put itself in “rest” mode.

In turn, such isolation also usually happens when the mind assumes that the body is able to comply with the activity being performed without actively thinking about what’s happening.

For example, this a situation that may occur when we’re in a meeting and, after a few minutes, we realize that we don’t remember what points were being discussed or the decisions that were made. In this way, the brain disconnected or used “auto pilot” to face the demands of the environment.

Understanding the above, let’s take a look at the main triggers of dissociation.

1. Information overload

In events where a large amount of information needs to be processed in a short time, the mind reaches a point of overload. Then, thoughts are lost in the form of digression and a rest is produced.

Situations with these characteristics become favorable when it’s a good idea to let the body flow. For example, this may occur in a dance session in which the steps have already been learned and manage to flow naturally without absolute concentration on every detailed move.

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2. Why does our brain dissociate? Stress

Why does our brain dissociate?
In work contexts, stress can be the perfect trigger to allow the brain to dissociate.

Emotional disturbances that come as a result of sudden problems can generate a lot of stress that we don’t know how to deal with. However, we often find some tranquility during sporadic lapses, but we don’t understand why.

The answer is that a dissociation incident happens as a sort of “anesthesia” for reality. Likewise, there are more severe events to get out of stress that promote huge isolation of the mind and body. In fact, this even affects the central nervous system.

3. Not getting enough sleep

Insufficient rest for an extended time makes some people more prone to go through dissociation. Mental activity is diminished by a lack of sleep. Thus, the “off switch” can be flipped in unexpected and even dangerous situations.

Is dissociation a bad thing?

Whether dissociation is a bad thing or a good thing depends on the situation, as it can be viewed through two lenses. We’ll start with the positive prism, in which zoning allows creativity-related activities to flow. Actions such as drawing and dancing achieve a disconnection that enhances our enjoyment of them.

Dissociation becomes negative when the disconnection occurs to escape from situations that need to be solved, such as family issues or couple discussions that end up remaining in the air. It also becomes detrimental when it occurs due to overconfidence during an activity that appears to be controlled, but exhibits risks.

When should you seek help?

Por qué nuestro cerebro disocia: esto puede ser peligroso
If dissociation is very frequent and leads to altered moods or dangerous behaviors, it’s important to seek help.

By understanding why our brain dissociates and under what circumstances it can start to become risky, it’s time to determine the appropriate time to step forward and seek help.

For this reason, it’s worth considering getting a professional when symptoms of depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and others, such as the following:

  • Inability to maintain concentration until the completion of simple activities.
  • Difficulty managing time on different tasks.
  • Deficiency in the control of emotions.
  • Extreme irritability when faced with situations that were habitual in the past.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Episodes of self-injury.
  • A low mood that doesn’t improve with the passing of days.
  • Being unable to perceive a disconnection after it occurs. When it happens, those affected are aware of it because of the attention calls of the people around them.

Is there any way to avoid it?

The relevance of knowing how to identify why our brain dissociates is that there are ways to avoid it. In that sense, if you notice that the situation is starting to get out of control, attempts to avoid it include the following activities.


Grounding consists of performing actions that ensure your connection with the here and now – that is, with the present. Some measures can be savoring an aromatic candy, dropping cold water on your hands, and even stretching.

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Breathing exercises

These are breathing techniques to increase concentration levels. These usually consist of giving special attention to the inhalations and exhalations while ensuring you don’t lose focus. In each new attempt, the objective is to increase the time of focus before dispersion and dissociation.

Active listening

Active listening is a technique to avoid mental dispersion when receiving information through a class, extensive indication, or a speech. The way to carry it out is by applying non-verbal signals (gestures, postures, etc.), so that an anchorage is established with the moment and words that are being accumulated.

Improving your lifestyle is key

After underseting why our brain dissociates and establishing the moment to seek extra support, all that’s left is to make the effort to initiate the change. Recognizing the inconvenience is the first step.

The fundamental recommendation is to adopt a healthy sleep schedule and eating routines. This reduces stress levels and has a positive impact on dissociation that’s caused by emotional overload problems.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.