April 12, 2011

Depersonalization Disorder – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Posted in Category : General Health

It is not uncommon to experience feelings of detachment from your body or to feel ‘spaced’ or disconnected. Many people describe this feeling as ‘dream like’ or as ‘looking in from the outside.’ However, when these feelings of detachment or disconnect occur frequently or last for long periods of time, it may become a problem and affect the way a person interacts with others and functions on a day to day basis.

This condition is referred to as a depersonalization and falls under the category of disorders known as dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders are those conditions that include some type of breakdown of memory, awareness, consciousness or perception. Depersonalization is also more often than not a symptom of other mental illnesses or psychological conditions. Derealization is another condition that is often confused with depersonalization. While depersonalization affects the way a person sees himself or his thoughts, derealization disrupts the way a person perceives the external world.

Symptoms: Symptoms may last for a short time or may be chronic and last for years at a stretch. Symptoms also vary from mild to severe and can change with every dissociative episode. Depersonalization disorder symptoms include:

  • Recurring feeling that you are observing your thoughts and actions from the outside of your body
  • A feeling of being in a dream
  • Numbing of the senses
  • Lack of proper responses to the world around you
  • Feeling like a ‘robot’
  • Feeling of not being in control of your own actions
  • Through it all the awareness that your sense of disconnect is not real but only a feeling
  • Feeling that your hands, legs, and head have shrunk or enlarged
  • Feeling that you are floating in the air and looking down on yourself
  • Being emotionally disconnected from other people around you
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • A feeling of merely existing and going through one’s life as a bystander

If these feelings or symptoms of depersonalization occur in passing or on a one-off basis, it is rarely cause for concern. However, if the symptoms are severe or ongoing and last for hours or days at a time, it is best to consult with a doctor or psychologist to prevent the condition from worsening and affecting your life, work and personal relationships.

Causes: Most experts agree that chronic or severe periods of depersonalization are often triggered by some sort of traumatic or life changing event such as war, accidents, violence or abuse. Recurring episodes of depersonalization may also occur as a result of fear after a previous depersonalization experience. Depersonalization is often also a symptom of other mental conditions such as schizophrenia, depression or anxiety. While the exact cause of depersonalization still remains unknown, it is believed to be a result of an imbalance of certain chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain.

Treatment: In most cases, people who suffer from depersonalization or derealization are treated for accompanying symptoms such as anxiety, fear, panic, or depression. The most successful approach regarding the treatment of derealization or depersonalization involves a combination of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, and medications (such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs). Additional treatments such as family therapy, clinical hypnosis and art or music therapy may also provide further insight into the condition.

There are no known natural remedies or home treatment for derealization and depersonalization. At best you can change your diet to help counter feelings of anxiety and depression and being exercising to living a healthy life in order to boost serotonin levels and try and prevent recurring dissociative episodes.


  1. http://www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/UBNRP/dissociative09/deper.html