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Dissociation is the primary symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.), and is exactly what is happening when a person has this disorder, which is why it was renamed from "Multiple Personality Disorder" (M.P.D.) to "Dissociative Identity Disorder" (D.I.D.)., however, the presence of alter personalities is the one characteristic that defines D.I.D.
When a person is in a dissociative state of mind we may feel like we are daydreaming or just not aware of our surroundings. But any distraction such as a loud noise or smell will usually bring us out of a dissociative state of mind. In fact we usually feel silly and awkward that we may have appeared "in another world" so we might make a comment something like "WOW where was I!"
Have you ever experienced a traumatic episode such as an accident or the sudden loss of someone near and dear to you? Did you experience loss of time or things were going so fast that everything seemed like a blur and later you had troubles remembering the episode; even the next few days after?
What about dealing with the kids and their music and talking constantly, do you block them out automatically? I'm starting to dissociate just thinking about that one. That is what dissociation feels like and truly is.
And what about the soldiers who go to war and return home mentally and emotionally disturbed and even with severe amnesia, and P.T.S.D.? I can not imagine having to experience the tragedy and terror that they face and then have to live with it in their minds day in and day out. Their minds are only able to absorb a small amount of what they witness and experience so their minds are forced to automatically dissociate just so they can preserve the little bit of sanity from what they are surrounded with.
I am certainly not saying every soldier comes back as a survivor with D.I.D. but one can not imagine how they could come back with their minds as healthy as before they left. Everybody dissociates, it's our minds way of taking a break from our surroundings, much like taking a break at our job to rest our body, but our minds only way of doing so is to shut down temporarily.
I'm sure you'll recognize this in yourself as you drive down a familiar road and your mind wonders off and all of a sudden you are at your destination without remembering the journey. But other times you may even pass the turn that you've made so often before. A part of your mind is in the drivers seat where another part of your mind is remembering the days hard work or looking forward to an exciting weekend.
The difference is; the ordinary individual who dissociates occasionally, whereas the traumatized individual who has D.I.D., dissociates on a regular basis.