Depersonalization Disorder

Depersonalization Disorder is one of four dissociative disorders. It is particularly troubling for those affected by it, because they feel disconnected from their identity and reality. A person with Depersonalization Disorder is also associated with derealization, meaning that the sufferer feels outside of reality, also referred to as unreality.

Common Symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder:

  • A feeling of automation (“going through the motions” of life, without actually feeling anything)
  • Feeling like one is in a film or a dream
  • The feeling of out of body experiences, or feeling disconnected from one’s body
  • Detachment from one’s body, environment, reality and/or self
  • A feeling that the external world is not real
  • Inability to control emotions and life

Causes of Depersonalization Disorder

Like all dissociative disorders, Depersonalization Disorder can come about after a traumatic experience, as a sort of defense mechanism of the psyche. Often, a patient with Depersonalization Disorder has experienced some form of abuse as a child, or has experienced a traumatic event later in life. Emotional abuse has been found to be a prominent cause of Depersonalization. A person with Depersonalization Disorder will display the noticeable symptoms listed above; however, they are really the only person who can identify their disorder through speaking with a professional because Depersonalization is more often felt internally than displayed externally. Often times Depersonalization Disorder is accompanied by other disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

Treatment for Depersonalization Disorder

While there doesn’t seem to be an absolutely effective treatment for Depersonalization Disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been used to help patients improve symptoms. It can also sometimes resolve on its own. However, if you or a loved one has consistent, perpetual feelings of Depersonalization, it’s important to get psychological help. Because Depersonalization Disorder is often accompanied by anxiety, panic attacks and depression, seeking therapy can only help to improve those symptoms and offer a better chance of understanding and overcoming the disorder. All patients are different and a psychologist or psychiatrist can help determine the best route for an individual.

What Should You Do?

If you or a loved one is suffering from Depersonalization Disorder, it is highly recommended to seek help from a professional. Although mild forms of depersonalization cure themselves, a psychologist can still help you sort through what may have caused it, and can help to prevent future recurrences of Depersonalization. Living in unreality is preventing you from fully experiencing all that life can offer, so it’s vital that you seek help. Simply look online for local therapists, or talk to your health care provider for advice on where to go. If you are a student, make an appointment with your school counselor in order to get on the road to a better life.

Links and Resources for Further Reading

To learn more about Depersonalization Disorder, check out the links below:

  • Citizendium
  • Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders

Review Sources

  • American Journal of Psychiatry – Three different articles from the American Journal of Psychiatry including studies, cases, and childhood abuse. Article One, Article Two, Article Three.
  • Citizendium – Encyclopedic website about Depersonalization Disorder.
  • Wikipedia – Wikipedia page about Depersonalization and Depersonalization Disorder (DP) including symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.
  • Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders – Encyclopedia webpage with extensive information and resources relating to DP.

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