Psy Q: What’s the difference between regular, or occasional, dissociation and chronic disassociation? Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT, answers.

Kyle Zrenchik, PhD

Kyle Zrenchik, PhD

Answer: Mental health experts may be seeing more people presenting with dissociation and dissociative symptoms due to traumatic events that they have lived through over the past year in relation to the pandemic, according to Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT, who runs ALL IN Therapy Clinic in Minnesota. “But it’s important to recognize the difference between ‘regular’ dissociation [a state one may experience in response to a stressor such as job loss or illness during COVID-19], and chronic dissociation, which is usually deeply rooted in long-term childhood trauma,” Dr. Zrenchik explains.

While “regular” dissociation typically occurs in response to an event and does not require intervention, chronic dissociation is much more serious and poses treatment challenges for many behavioral health professionals.

“When working with people with chronic dissociation, a common question they have is why they dissociated that day, or at that moment. Sometimes it is obvious, but often times it is not,” shares Dr. Zrenchik.

A team at Stanford University, led by Karl Deisseroth, recently published findings on the use of optogenetics to determine states of dissociation.

“If obtaining a deeper understanding of the link between brain rhythm and dissociation [as Dr. Deisseroth’s team is doing] can allow us to better explain and predict when a dissociative episode will happen, this will help tremendously by teaching clients how their brain works and enabling them to manage and gain control over their dissociation. As a clinician, this would aid my work tremendously,” said Dr. Zrenchik.

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Last Updated: Apr 22, 2021