Dissociation is the disconnection from full awareness of self, time, and/or external circumstances. It is a complex neuropsychological process. Dissociation exists along a continuum from normal everyday experiences to disorders that interfere with everyday functioning.

Researchers and clinicians believe that dissociation is a common, naturally occurring defense against childhood trauma. Children tend to dissociate more readily than adults. Faced with overwhelming abuse, it is not surprising that children would psychologically flee (dissociate) from full awareness of their experience.

Studies have shown that most people who have dissociative disorders, were subjected to trauma before age 8. PTSD would be more likely to result in a person any older, since children dissociative more readily than older persons.

During the period of time when a person is dissociating, certain information is not associated with other information as it would be normally. Because this process can produce changes in memory, people who frequently dissociate often find their senses of personal history and identity are affected.

Dissociation may become an automatic response to anxiety even in non-abusive situation. The vestigial defensive pattern that persists into adulthood, long after the traumatic circumstances are past, can result in a full-fledged dissociative disorder.

Dissociation is the state in which, on some level or another, one becomes somewhat removed from reality, whether this be daydreaming, performing actions without being fully connected to their performance ("running on automatic"), or other, more disconnected actions. Feeling "out of it"; unable to remember what was said or done. It is the opposite of "association" and involves the lack of association, (in the case of borderline personality disorder, the lack of association with one's identity), with the rest of the world.

Dissociation is a very important chemical process. When molecules dissociate, they break up to smaller pieces, which leave or take extra electrons from the other pieces. These are called ions. The pieces can reassemble themselves back to the original molecule, because the electric charges attract the pieces to each other. The familiar properties of salty, acidic, basic and alkaline solutions are caused by the dissociation. Salts dissociate to their ions, acids dissociate to hydrogen ions, alkali dissociate to hydroxide ions and non-alkali bases make water dissociate to hydroxide ions by absorbing hydrogen ions.

Dissolution of salts is a dissociation process. Polar solvents (e.g. water) can break the crystalline structure of an ionic crystal (e.g. table salt) and dissolve the substance. The crystal is dissociated into ions. That is, there are no molecules of sodium chloride floating in the solution, but individual sodium and chloride ions. When the water is boiled away, the salt reassembles itself back to the crystals.

NaCl (s) -> Na+(aq) + Cl-(aq)

The taste and the smell of a dissociating substance is not the taste of the crystal, but the taste of the ions it dissociates into. Table salt tastes of sodium ions and chloride, salmiakki tastes of ammonium and chloride, citric acid tastes of citrate and hydrogen ions, etc.

Ionic salts and strong acids dissociate completely, but some substances dissociate only partially, forming a dynamic equilibrium between the whole and dissociated states. When one breaks up, another reassembles, so that the total ratio between them is constant. This is an important type of chemical equilibrium, which includes weak acids, weak bases and acidic or basic salts.

Dis*so`ci*a"tion [L. dissociatio: cf. F. dissociation.]


The act of dissociating or disuniting; a state of separation; disunion.

It will add infinitely dissociation, distraction, and confusion of these confederate republics. Burke.

2. Chem.

The process by which a compound body breaks up into simpler constituents; -- said particularly of the action of heat on gaseous or volatile substances; as, the dissociation of the sulphur molecules; the dissociation of ammonium chloride into hydrochloric acid and ammonia.


© Webster 1913.

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