Depersonalization Disorder

1 What is Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder?

Depersonalization-derealization disorder is a mental illness in which a person feels like he or she is watching themselves from the outside.

Feelings that patients experience may be very disturbing and usually makes a person feel like he or she is dreaming.

Many people may have a passing experience of this disorder at some point. If these feelings keep recuring, it is considereddepersonalization-derealization disorder.

It most occurs in people with traumatic experiences. In severe cases, depersonalization-derealization disoder can interfere with relationships,work and daily activities.

Treatments used include psychotherapy and medications.

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2 Symptoms

Several symptoms exist for Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder.

During episodes of depersonalization-derealization disoder patients are usually aware that the sense of detachment is not real.

Symptoms of depersonalization include

  • Feeling that you are observing your thoughts, emotions or body from outside
  • Feeling of not beeing in control of  your speech or movements.
  • The feeling thet the body, legs or arms are distorted, enlarged or shruken or that the head is wrapped in cotton.
  • Emotional or physical numbness of your senses or responses to the surrounding environment.
  • A sense that your memories lack amotion and that they may not be your own memories.

Derealization symptoms include

  • Feelings of being unfamiliar with the surrounding like you are living in a movie
  • Feeling emotionally disconneted from people you care about.
  • Surroundings that appear distorted, blurry, clorless, two-dimensionla or artificial or an increased awareness and clarity of the surrounding environment.
  • Distorted perception of time, distance and shape and sizes of objects.

3 Causes

The exact cause of depersonalization-derealization disorder is not known.

It is believed to be caused by changes in the levels of neurotrasnmitters that can increase stress and fear.

This in turn can laed to depersonalization-derealization disorder.

Other causes may include:

  • Childhood trauma or abuse
  • Growing up with a mentally ill parent
  • Suicide or unexpected death of a relative or close friend
  • Severe stress like relatioship, financial or work-related problems
  • Severe trauma

4 Making a Diagnosis

For the diagnosis of depersonalization-derealization disorder patients must meet the criteria of symptoms in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The DMS-5 includes the following definitions:


Having a feeling of being  detached thoughts, emotions or body.


Feeling detached from the environment, as it would appear in a dream.

In order for depersonalization-derealization disorder to be diagnosed:

  • The patient should persistent experiences of symptoms of depersonalization, derealization or both.
  • The patient should be aware that the experience is not real
  • Symptoms interfere with the day-to-day activities of the patient.
  • Symptoms are not caused by any other mental disorder like schizophrenia or panic disorder.

Symptoms are not as a result of alcohol or drugs.

Other tests can be used to check for underlying physical or mental disorders that might cause similar symptoms.

5 Treatment

Treatment of depersonalization-derealization disorder usually involves psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy helps patients to understand the cause and helps them to take control over their symptoms.

This is helps them to better manage the symptoms of depersonalization-derealization disorder.

Techniques that are used include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy.

Sometimes medications can be given along with psychotherapy. Drugs that are given to treat anxiety and depression like

can be used to relieve symptoms of derpersonalization-derealization disorder.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

The following steps can help people in coping with depersonalization-derealization disorder:

  • Following the treatment plan
  • Learning more about the condition
  • Joining a support group

7 Risks and Complications

Risk factors of depersonalization-derealization disorder include:

  • Being a witness or victim of trauma or abuse
  • Being in mid to late teen or early adulthood

Having personality traits that cause aperson to avoid or deny difficult situation or trouble adapting to difficult situations

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Having other mental disorders like depression or anxiety disorder
  • Having medical or physical conditions like seizures or head injury.

Episodes of depersonalization-derealization disorder can be frightening and may include:

  • Trouble focusing on tasks or remembering things
  • Problems in maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family

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