The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), defines dissociation as:
A disruption, interruption, and/or discontinuity of the normal, subjective integration of behavior, memory, identity, consciousness, emotion, perception, body representation, and motor control.
Most people space out during a conversation, that happens when there is a lot of information and your mind wants to take a break to configure it. That's different from dissociation because in dissociation you space out to escape from the reality. In dissociation, you disconnect from reality. You disconnect from your thoughts, feelings, memories and, surroundings. You may have an out of body experiences or may have flashbacks.
In most cases, physiological symptoms also follow, you may feel lightheaded or your heart may start pounding. The severity varies from person to person. In any case, the family and loved ones need to know these 5 things about dissociation.
1. Reasoning won't help
People will always try to reason with them by making them see the reality while not realizing that it's the reality which they are trying to escape at first hand.
2. Anger would escalate the symptoms
If you observe someone dissociating, don't argue with them because anger would simply escalate the problem. The person dissociating is reacting to a perceived threat, anger would only build up that threat.
3. The person dissociating is not possessed
Dissociation is not dangerous, people who dissociate are closed off and mostly catatonic. They wouldn't hurt anyone and neither are they possessed. Simply, they feel that they are under threat and are just simply trying to cope with it. It's unconscious, so a shrink will be of more help than an exorcist.
4. Show empathy
The person who dissociates only needs acceptance from you. Make them feel understood, ask them what they need. Be available to them. Make them feel safe.
5. Practice grounding techniques
Grounding is a process when you connect physically and emotionally with the world around you. Grounding will reestablish your connection with reality. There are various techniques available online which will help you in the process.