What Is Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder?

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What Is Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder?

Depersonalization derealization disorder is a type of disorder that what they sense is not real. / Photo by: Refat via Shutterstock


Depersonalization-derealization, as described by the Mayo Clinic, happens when the person often feels they are looking at themselves from outside their body or having the sensation that their surroundings are not real. The National Alliance of Mental Illness states that only 2% of people worldwide have been diagnosed with the disorder.





What specifically causes Depersonalization-derealization Disorder is not yet known, although there are several triggers and risk factors. It is mostly triggered by a host of traumatic, stressful and negative experiences which have occurred in their childhood, Lisa Fritscher, a psychologist from the University of South Florida explains.

If an individual has been neglected or subject to abuse in their childhood, whether physical or emotional, it is possible for them to acquire this disorder. Being able to be a witness of domestic violence or having a sudden death in the family can also be a factor.

A person may also be at risk if they tend to deny or attempt to escape the difficult situation.  If they struggle with adjusting to difficult situations, there is a higher chance they will be affected by this mental disorder.

Having anxiety, stress and depression may also make them more prone to developing this disorder.

Having a record of substance abuse may also cause this.

Being deprived of sleep or being in an environment where they are overstimulated may lead their symptoms to become worse.



People who suffer from this condition may either experience the symptoms of depersonalization or derealization or a combination of both.



This means that a person feels separated from themselves as if watching themselves from a movie screen. They may get the sensation of disconnectedness from their body.  Since they feel a detachment from their mind, body, and feelings, they also that their movement and speech are out of their control.

Some cases of people who have experienced depersonalization have also experienced a condition where they are not able to identify or describe emotions called alexithymia. Physical symptoms may include the sensation that the head is wrapped in cotton and the feeling that their body and limbs have gotten larger or smaller.



This occurs when the individual gets the sensation that they are disconnected from their environment and the objects that surround them. This may give them the feeling that the world is not real and has been distorted.

As part of dissociation, this can affect their perception and other senses. The world will either appear cartoonish or larger-than-life to them.  They may also perceive everything around them as foggy, two-dimensional or colorless. Events that may have just recently taken place may feel like they happened long ago.



WebMD reports that it is possible for patients to be fully healed from this condition. Symptoms that are linked to Depersonalization-Derealization may fade away on their own. However, if left untreated, it may cause the person to go through depersonalization or derealization phases.

The treatment options for a person suffering from this disorder include:



One of the treatments for the rare disorder is via psychotherapy. / Photo by: BlurryMe via Shutterstock


This therapy may help the patient express their thoughts and feelings related to their psychological problems that may have been the cause of their depersonalization experiences. Under this therapy, they may try the Cognitive Therapy which aims to help them change their negative thinking patterns.



Another treatment was medication via giving anti anxiety and antidepressant medicines. / Photo by: Adul10 via Shutterstock.


Usually, medication is not prescribed for those with dissociative disorders. The major exception is if they are also currently experiencing anxiety or depression.  In that case, they may be prescribed anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants.

Sometimes, the doctor may recommend antipsychotic medication for those experiencing depersonalization to help improve their distorted thinking and view.


Family Therapy

In this therapy, the family members are able to learn about the disorder and what may have caused it. They are also taught how to detect when the symptoms of the disorder begin to reappear.


Creative Therapies

Making the patient engage in creative activities such as art or music therapy can help them communicate and explore their feelings in a safe and creative way.


Clinical Hypnosis

When a patient undergoes clinical hypnosis, the therapist makes them go through a different state of consciousness by utilizing techniques that involve intense concentration, relaxation and focused attention.  This lets the individual probe into their repressed feelings, thoughts, and memories.

To avoid any complications from developing such being unable to concentrate on work, having problems with recalling memories, having relationship conflicts with loved ones, and having feelings of despair, a person affected by Depersonalization-derealization is advised to seek medical help.

They are suggested to consult a doctor if the symptoms have been emotionally hindering them, keep recurring or are starting to impair aspects of their life like their work, relationships and daily routine.

Since there are no treatments that are only focused on treating the disorder itself, the aim of the treatment approaches is to help eliminate or prevent the symptoms from recurring.



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