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Depersonalization Disorder

Depersonalization disorder is a dissociative disorder characterized by continuous or recurring feelings of being an outside observer of one’s thoughts, or body. People with this disorder do not lose touch with reality; they are aware that these are sensations rather than the way things are. The depersonalized episodes can last anywhere from minutes to years, and often cause anxiety and depression as well as a great deal of confusion to those who suffer from this. Depersonalization disorder affects all areas of an individual’s life from their efficiency to their interpersonal relationships. Feelings of depersonalization can be a symptom of many psychiatric and medical disorders, but as a separate disorder, it is relatively rare.

Symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder

The symptoms of depersonalization disorder vary in severity from case to case, and may include a combination of any of the following symptoms.

Common Symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder

  • Numbness of senses or responses to the world
  • Feeling like living in a dream or movie; feeling like a robot
  • Awareness of the difference between feelings and reality
  • Continuous or recurring feelings that one is an outside observer of their thoughts, body, or body parts
  • Distortion of the way one senses their body
  • Emotional disconnect
  • Feeling of floating out of body

What Causes Depersonalization Disorder?

As with many dissociative disorders, the exact causes of the dysfunction behind depersonalization disorder is unknown. It is perceived to be a combination of emotional and biological factors. Depersonalization disorder is often triggered by severe stress, a traumatic event such as witnessing a violent crime, war, or experiencing abuse.

Treatment for Depersonalization Disorder

In many cases, the symptoms will go away or lessen by themselves. However, without treatment to deal with the underlying causes, there is a higher likelihood that the individual will experience another episode of depersonalization. Treatment is usually necessary when episodes are long-lasting, recurrent, or particularly distressing to an individual, and also deals with some of the commonly co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Various Forms of Treatment for Depersonalization Disorder Include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Medication- not specifically for depersonalization disorder, but rather antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications
  • Family therapy
  • Creative therapy, such as art therapy and music therapy.
  • Clinical hypnosis/hypnotherapy

As with any disorder, it is important to consult a medical or mental health professional in order to be diagnosed and form an individually suited treatment plan. It is important to remember that as stressful as this disorder can be for families and those who suffer from these episodes, individuals with depersonalization disorder are often able to make a full recovery.

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