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.