Let me say from the start, I don’t think depersonalization disorder exists. This is just another label given to another symptom with many possible causes. And as I have written about on this blog before I don’t believe that labels help us or serve us in the long run. In fact I think they hinder our recovery.
That said, the powers that be in the world of medical/psychological nomenclature have seen fit to create the phrase depersonalization disorder. And as many people who contact this site say, depersonalization is a common symptom of panic and anxiety.
in DSM IV depersonalization is described as:
“A lasting or recurring feeling of being detached from the patient’s own body.”
In my experience, during a period of depersonalization one feels as if nothing is real. The things around you, even your own limbs, seem to be disconnected and distant. It is almost as if you are watching yourself on a screen. If you have experienced it, you will know what I am talking about.
Depersonalization can be a symptom of various illnesses. It is absolutely imperative that you speak to your doctor if you experience any kind of depersonalization.
If your doctor is satisfied that you don’t have any other condition then depersonalization is likely to be due to anxiety, stress or panic. It is in fact the third most common reported psychological symptom after anxiety and depression. Like symptoms of anxiety and panic, depersonalization is highly unpleasant but absolutely harmless. And it does pass.
Treatment of depersonalization
Assuming it is caused by anxiety or stress (and instead of assuming remember you should check with a doctor) the treatments available are roughly the same as those for anxiety. SSRI’s have been known to help, and obviously CBT and other therapies can provide a long term solution. It is unfortunately a very under-researched area of psychology, so hopefully in the future more will be understood and there will be better advice.