Ask Mabel: Is it possible to physically not be able to move because of stress?
My eldest child continues to have these episodes where she falls over and physically can’t move. I have taken her to a neurologist who has several thoughts on why this might be happening, one of which is dissociation. The neurologist said it is very real physically but could be brought on by stress. Is this possible? Does anyone have post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociate by falling over and not being able to move?
Signed, Mary from Texas
Fight, Flight, or Freeze
Mabel: Hi Mary, I am so sorry to hear you are going through this with your daughter. To answer your question, yes. People can have dissociation show up in a variety of responses. Think of fight, flight, or freeze. The fighting response is to get angry and act defensively; the flight response is to black out, experience memory loss, have no recall of events; and the freeze response is when you can’t move, you are stuck quite literally both mentally and physically.
I understand how this can be confusing but your mental state can have a huge impact on your physical well-being. If something is going on mentally that is just too big to take on your body may display a physical response as an act of protection for your brain. In the case of your daughter, she may be unable to move because it is her brain’s way of shutting down to protect her from stress.
Consider getting her some help from a licensed mental health professional who can help figure out what some of the triggers may be and teach her healthy coping mechanisms.