What is depersonalization? Its symptoms,causes,diagnosis and treatment

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What is depersonalization

Are you struggling with a depersonalization disorder? OR are you suspecting the development of this disorder? Worry not, for in this post you’ll learn what is depersonalization, its symptoms, possible causes, its diagnosis, treatment, and how to best deal with the disorder.

Let’s get into it.

What is depersonalization disorder?

Depersonalization disorder is a condition that involves the persistence of the feeling of disconnection from the body and mind. Contact with reality is not completely lost, but the patient feels as if he is being observed from outside the body.

The disorder is part of a group of several diseases known as dissociative. These involve loss of memory and consciousness and other problems related to perception.

The feeling of depersonalization is not so rare. Many people can feel it against the background of stress and fatigue. It’s only when these sensations return or do not completely pass, then one can discuss the depersonalization disorder.

An episode of depersonalization can take seconds, minutes, or years.

Some studies show that up to 50% of people have felt the depersonalization at some point, but only 3% suffer from depersonalization syndrome.

The disorder has symptoms that appear and disappear quite abruptly. And when they are less severe they could be confused with the symptoms of anxiety.

The incidence of the disorder is double in men than in women and occurs very rarely in people over 40 years of age.

What are the symptoms of depersonalization?

The main symptom of depersonalization is the distorted perception of one’s own body.

The feeling persists that the patient is out of the body and observes himself.

There is a feeling of losing control of actions and speech and the patient feels like he is in a dream or other reality.

There is a feeling of distortion of the legs and hands. One feels as if they are smaller or bigger than they normally are.

The patient feels that his own body is unreal and dissolves or transforms.

The experiences also differ from patient to patient. This is from the sensation of floating and observing from the outside, to the sensation of dreaming or feeling that it is a robot or a machine.

These symptoms can be harmless if they last for a short time and do not recur. But in some cases, this condition becomes chronic and persistent and causes strong emotional distress, which interferes with daily activities. In this case, a medical consultation and the administration of appropriate treatment is paramount.

Therefore, the most important symptoms for diagnosing the disorder are the distorted perception of oneself, the body, and the way life presents itself.

Other important symptoms are detachment from reality and the perception of things in general.

Causes of depersonalization

Not much is known about the causes of this disorder. However, biological and environmental factors are considered to be the prime causes of this disorder.

The disorder can be caused by stress or severe trauma and is often associated with other conditions such as anxietydepressionor schizophrenia. Depersonalization is linked to a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters.

Diagnosis of the disorder

When you go to see a specialist, he/she takes into account your medical history. Then a clinical and paraclinical examination (urine and blood tests) is done to rule out other conditions such as epilepsy or substance abuse, side effects of some medications, or sleep deprivation.

Normally there will be questions you’ll need to answer to distinguish depersonalization syndrome from other dissociative disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder. Such questions include;

-when did the first symptoms appear?
– Were these symptoms continuous or occasional?
– How severe are the symptoms?
– What seems to improve the symptoms?
– What seems to aggravate the symptoms?
– Do you have other chronic conditions?
– Do you have any other mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder?
– What medicines or dietary supplements do you take?
– Do you use drugs of abuse or alcohol?

Risk factors of depersonalization disorder?

Studies have shown a link between emotional abuse in childhood and depersonalization disorder in the brain, but also depersonalization as a symptom of other mental illnesses.

People suffering from depersonalization have difficulty concentrating, short-term visual and auditory memory, and spatial perception.

There is absolutely no study that has shown depersonalization disorder is genetic.

Anyone could develop this syndrome but the risk increases with severe emotional trauma. This is the case if you have been in a car accident, witnessed, or been affected by any life-threatening experience.

Individuals suffering from other mental illnesses such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • schizophrenia
  • multiple personalities
  • post-traumatic shock
  • and panic attacks are at higher risk of experiencing depersonalization.

Age is another risk factor. Depersonalization is rare in children or the elderly.

Another risk factor for depersonalization disorder is the consumption of cannabisalcohol, and other hallucinogenic substances.

The feeling of depersonalization is often perceived during cannabis use. However, it is not known for sure if it leads to the development of depersonalization syndrome. However, in association with other dissociative disorders, it is considered to be a risk factor for this syndrome.

Treatment of depersonalization

In many cases, the symptoms heal on their own.

However, if the patient suffers from persistent and recurrent symptoms that affect the performance of daily activities, then it is necessary to adopt an appropriate treatment.

Each patient reacts differently in treatment. Also, note that there is not just one form of psychotherapy or medicine that is effective in curing all cases.

If you seek medical treatment, it is very important to let a specialist prescribe the meds to you.

There are many medications to treat depersonalization syndrome, but in most cases, they only cure the symptoms and not the condition. Drug treatment is necessary only in more severe cases that are accompanied by anxiety attacks that affect the patient’s quality of life.

Other treatments include;

Psychodynamic treatment, which is based on inducing strong feelings from the past to get over certain unpleasant and disturbing memories. Often, some events are locked in memory. Therefore, this therapy involves the patient remembering traumatic events and going through them in the present tense.

Cognitive treatment tries to change the way the patient responds to certain stimuli such as anxiety or stress. Depersonalization often has other associated symptoms such as loss of fear control in uncomfortable situations. Cognitive treatment intends to change the way the patient reacts to situations of panic and anxiety, thus changing the way depersonalization manifests itself.

Family therapy will seek to educate the whole family to understand what this condition means and to provide appropriate moral support.

Art therapy provides an environment for expressing intense thoughts and feelings, in a healthy, safe, and creative way.

It is a suitable environment for socializing, to overcome stress but also to explore personal identity. Even if such a course aims to develop certain artistic skills and techniques, most often the emphasis is on expressing the person’s feelings and feelings.

The creative process helps to resolve internal conflicts and traumas, to reduce stress and control feelings, to increase self-esteem. If you choose this therapy, then it is advisable to use it in conjunction with another form of therapy.

Hypnosis and self-hypnosis are somewhat more controversial treatment methods. They work by inducing a condition characterized by reduced peripheral brain activity but also by an increased level of attention at the same time.

A girl biting teeth looking so afraid

Prognosis of depersonalization

The prognosis for depersonalization disorder is a good one even without adopting any form of treatment.

Most often, the symptoms disappear with the treatment of stress and anxiety, which are often the factors that cause episodes of depersonalization.

In some cases, patients may develop a chronic form of depersonalization syndrome, but even in this case, the episodes are closely related to the stressful events in which they take part.

How to deal with the disorder

Although this condition can be frightening, it does not need to be dangerous.

If the patient understands that he does not have major neurological disorders or a serious mental illness, this clarification can make him feel safer and can help him cope with the condition.

1. Get information about the disease. There are several books and articles available on depersonalization disorder and how to deal with it. I will be dropping an article on this and link it here.

2. Support group. You can search for either online or physical groups that can help you get the support and learning techniques you to deal with the situation. I will also drop a post on this soon so stay tuned.

3. Practicing specific therapeutic techniques. Counseling for depersonalization disorder may involve practicing certain techniques for resolving feelings of depersonalization. Two of these techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.


I hope you’ve learned all you need to know about depersonalization. Now it’s your turn to tell me the journey in the comment section. When did you realize you had depersonalization? Have you sought treatment OR which stage of recovery are you in?

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