Dissociation is, sadly, often the consequence of trauma. I’m not going to go into the fine detail of each of the different types of dissociation disorders here, I’m going to keep it very general.

Dissociation is often a way of people coping with what has happened to them in the past, by distancing themselves from it – often described as viewing ourselves from the outside – witnessing what’s happening, rather than experiencing it. Autistic people, as a vulnerable group, are all too frequently the victims of abuse. This often results in PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and can also lead to dissociation.

Dissociation, for autistic people, can also occur when our environments are too much for us to cope with; we get through it, unconsciously, by separating ourselves from the experience, often with little or no memory of the experience afterwards. It can also be a way of us postponing feelings and responses until we have enough spoons to deal with the information – this is a conscious act and is really well described in this article →Dissociation as an autistic tool. [In order to read the second half of the article you will need to sign up for free membership to Medium. It’s very straightforward if you do it via your Facebook account – just a couple of clicks – but please don’t feel under pressure to].

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is one specific example of a dissociation disorder. In relation to autism, it is beautifully described by someone who described themself/ves as Autistic Selves. She is a woman in her forties and a mother. This is a really interesting perspective on how her DID helps her to cope with the complexities of life as an autistic person → click here to read the article and for links to her YouTube channel.

From my own perspective, I didn’t expect to find any identification with this frequently co-occurring condition with autism, despite having been diagnosed with complex PTSD. However, having read this information, particularly the article on dissociation as an autistic tool, I’m wondering if what I have done, for as long as I can remember, is exactly this. I have a system of walls. I build little walls (they’re dry stone nowadays – but they used to be red brick). Whenever something is happening in my life that I know I cannot cope with, alongside whatever else is going on, that needs to take precedence, I put the problem/event/news down and I quickly mentally build a little wall – about 3ft high. That’s high enough for me to ‘park it’ and deal with more pressing issues. When I have the mental space, I can knock down that wall with one kick. And then I deal with it. Is this dissociation? I don’t know. It’s interesting though.

Here’s one more autistic person’s blog, also suffering with PTSD, writing about their need to dissociate when times get tough → click here. There’s plenty of writing out there for those who are interested – this is just a tiny introduction to it.