Experiences: Masking Induced Structural Dissociation

This is just a short one as this is a consistent theme in both Neurodivergence and Trauma Recovery and we will return to the subject often.

We answered a question on Quora about masking and authenticity, and it brought up the issue of Structural Dissociation and what is in our experience an insidious and unrecognised expression of Masking Induced Structural Dissociation. So we thought we’d share it on our blog.

Does masking make you feel dishonest sometimes?

Yes, absolutely, but as I am learning more and more about structural dissociation, I have come to believe that masking can produce a special type of secondary dissociation.

Secondary dissociation happens due to persistent trauma. It tends to compartmentalise the adverse experiences by creating what are called Emotional Parts who contain the trauma. Depending on the severity, these can be anything from sub-personality types to full blown personalities and identities.

So, when someone has a PTSD episode it is because one of these EPs needs to release some of the dissociated emotions/memories/experiences.

In the image above (from Secondary Structural Dissociation | DID-Research.org) it is possible to get a graphical representation of this dynamic. We have the Apparently Normal Person (ANP) going around daily life while the EPs manage the trauma and associated responses. I used Secondary Dissociation as it is halfway between the others and of medium severity so can be relatable to as many people as possible.

The image below, by contrast, shows what takes place (in my experience) when masking. Which is the reverse of what happens with what is now recognised as a dissociative event.

We create a lot of these ANPs that go about daily life. Work, family, social interactions, and whatnot.

When we are in a safe space and take off the mask it’s when we have our meltdowns, which are a very neurodivergent type of PTSD episode.

Therefore, in my personal opinion, it’s not just about being honest, or authentic. There is a lot of potential for trauma with masking.

The situation becomes more complex if one also acquire a more traditional presentation of dissociation related disorders because by having multiple ANPs and multiple EPs we enter the territory of Tertiary Dissociation or Unspecified xx Disorder, which can spell trouble when looking for support.

So, avoid masking if possible 😁💙

We will be writing extensively on this specific subject and many others related to Structural Dissociation