What is Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder?

Published on March 23, 2020 – Last Updated on March 29, 2022

When you have a dream, you see everything going on in the dream. You can watch yourself doing things, you see the people you interact with, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you know it’s just a dream. It feels like your consciousness is outside your body. Nothing feels real. That’s what depersonalization/derealization can feel like. Our article will dig deep to find out what causes depersonalization/derealization disorder (DPD, DPDR), treatment options, and how meditation for depersonalization & derealization helps achieve

What is Depersonalization/ Derealization Disorder?

Depersonalization/derealization are psychiatric disorders and are considered disassociative disorders. People who have had it describe depersonalization/derealization disorder as feeling like you are outside your body and that everything is a dream. 

With depersonalization, you question if you are real, and with derealization, you ask if external actions are real. Someone can have one or both of these disorders. 

Although you may have this feeling from time to time, in depersonalization/derealization, this feeling happens frequently, disrupts your consciousness, and you cannot function. These episodes also cause a high rate of stress and anxiety, making the condition worse.

Depersonalization/derealization can interfere with work, relationships, and other daily activities. People who have had the disorder say it feels like you are going crazy trying to figure out if you exist or not. Symptoms of the disorder usually start in the mid-teens or early twenties. 

It is more common for women to experience a disassociative disorder than for men.  There are multiple reports about depersonalization on Reddit.

Depersonalization Disorder Test

Depersonalization is not a disease, but it is associated with other conditions. For example, it can be the symptom of certain mental disorders or problems such as anxiety disorder, panic attacks, depression, or drug addiction. This means that if you have been diagnosed with depersonalization, you might also want to seek medical help and treatment for your primary condition.

Depersonalization may also be a symptom of atypical depression. Atypical depression is characterized by increased appetite (especially for sweet foods), hypersomnia or sleeping too much, and heavy feelings in your arms or legs. However, depersonalization can also happen to people with bipolar disorder. If you think you have any of the above problems, ask your doctor for help.

A depersonalization test is one great way to determine if you are experiencing depersonalization disorder. In addition, a test can tell you whether or not your feelings of unreality are normal or something that will require professional help. For this reason, you should always take a test if you are serious about finding out whether or not this is an issue for you.

Symptoms of the Depersonalization Disorder

Some of the typical symptoms people experience are:

  • Numbness emotionally or physically with a lack of response to the environment around you
  • Feeling that you are not a part of your surroundings (you feel like you are in a dream or a movie)
  • You have no emotional feeling for the people you care about (parents, spouse, kids)
  • You feel like your body is distorted (such as being bigger or smaller)
  • Either feeling that you can’t control your speech or movements or that you are a robot
  • Your memories have no emotional attachment to them

What Causes Disassociation/ Derealization Disorder?

Several risk factors can bring an onset of disassociative disorders. In addition, it is not uncommon for people who have the disorder to have experienced some trauma in their life. This could include:

  • Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Witnessing either domestic violence or neighborhood violence
  • Severe stress, anxiety, or depression
  • The personality trait of avoidance or denial in difficult situations

The feelings or episodes of depersonalization/ derealization can last a few hours up to months at a time. 

Diagnosis

Disassociative disorders are psychiatric disorders and must be diagnosed by a doctor. To be diagnosed with the disorder, the doctor will perform a:

  • Physical exam
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Lab tests
  • Examine the criteria for the condition

The doctor will also have to determine if the symptoms are frequent and reoccurring, impair the patient socially and occupationally, and whether or not the patient realizes what they feel is not real. 

Treatment for Depersonalization/Derealization (DPD)

Although sometimes medication is prescribed, psychotherapy is the most effective way to treat disassociative disorders. Psychotherapy is used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. There are several different types of psychotherapy. To help with depersonalization/derealization, your therapist may use one or a combination of therapy types depending on your issues. Here are the types of different therapies that are used for mental disorders.

Psychodynamic– also known as psychoanalytic, is talk therapy. The therapist lets you talk about whatever comes to your mind. This is done to help you find meanings and patterns in what you say and do that might be contributing to the issues you are having.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – CBT looks at the thoughts and beliefs associated with behavior or feelings. CBT helps you learn the skills to change the behavior and retrain the way you think to help you deal with stressful situations.

Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT) – CAT combines psychoanalytic therapy and CBT. This type of therapy looks at behavior and how it causes problems to improve through self-help and experimenting.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy – This type of therapy looks at how your illness is triggered by events involving relationships. This could be a death, divorce, or relocation. Interpersonal psychotherapy helps you learn coping mechanisms to help you healthily cope with your feelings.

Humanistic therapies help you become more self-aware and see yourself in a more positive light.

Family therapy – Family therapy is done with your significant other or family so that you can work out problems together.

The purpose of psychotherapy is to help you find the underlying issues causing you to have a problem and how it affects your life. In addition, therapy can give you new ways to approach situations and offer tools to help you cope.

Concerning depersonalization/derealization, therapy can help you find what is causing the depersonalization/denationalization and allows you to adopt techniques to help you feel more connected to yourself and your environment.

How Long does Depersonalization Last

Depersonalization/derealization can last for a few minutes up to years. However, if you feel that your symptoms are severe enough to disrupt your life, you should see your doctor or therapist right away.

People who have experienced child abuse or neglect are more likely to have depersonalization/derealization.

Depersonalization/derealization is a symptom of mental illness or severe trauma that therapy can treat. With the aid of therapists, people who suffer from this disorder can resolve their problems and live everyday lives.

How to Stop Depersonalization

Depersonalization/derealization is a disorder that can be treated with therapy. Some medications may help, but psychotherapy is the most effective way to treat disassociative conditions. Therapy can help you resolve underlying issues and give coping mechanisms to help you through difficult times.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depersonalization/derealization, you can call your doctor for an appointment or see a therapist today.

Meditation and Depersonalization/Derealization (DPD)

Meditation can be used along with therapy to help you overcome depersonalization/derealization. Here are some of the ways meditation can help.

Helps with Anxiety

Anxiety usually goes along as a trigger to depersonalization/derealization. Anxiety and panic attacks can happen due to past events or trauma and then onset depersonalization/derealization. Meditation helps you gain more control over anxiety.

Meditation can help regulate emotions to a perceived threat by changing your neural pathways. Mindful meditation activates three centers in the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the anterior insula. These particular parts of the brain control worry. Therefore, activation of these regions of the brain can bring anxiety relief.

Helps with Concentration

Meditation helps you learn to focus on one thing and leave other thoughts and feelings behind. When you meditate, you concentrate on a focal point, breathing, muscle groups, or sound. 

If you are not good at sitting still, meditation can also be done with movement. Take a walk and concentrate on what you see or through specific activities such as Tai Chi. Depersonalization/derealization helps you learn to focus on your focus and let the panicky thoughts go. When ideas come into your head, you bring your attention back to your focus.

Helps Develop Awareness

With depersonalization/derealization, awareness can be clouded. Attention is dispersed, and the things around you don’t seem real. Meditation helps you learn mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness throughout the day by observing, smelling, and touching, you build an awareness of what is around you. As a result, your attention is focused and what’s around you is more real and not dreamlike.

Helps Relieve Stress

Stress activates the senses and puts the body on high alert. Excessive stress can trigger episodes of depersonalization/derealization. Meditation has the opposite effect. Meditation relaxes the body and mind to help normalize body functions. 

FAQ’s

How common is depersonalization/derealization disorder?

In the United States, approximately three to four million adults have depersonalization/derealization disorder. In the UK, it is estimated that around 600,000 people have the condition.

Is it common for people to have episodes of depersonalization and/or derealization?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 75% experience at least one depersonalization/derealization episode. Only 2% will meet the criteria for diagnosing the disorder by having chronic episodes. 

How old does a person have to be to have the disorder?

Most people get diagnosed with depersonalization/derealization disorder when they are adults; however, most symptoms begin around 16.

Can you have any other mental disorders at the same time as depersonalization/denationalization?

It is not uncommon to have other mental disorders while experiencing depersonalization/derealization. Some of the conditions that may be encountered along with disassociative disorders are:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Major depression
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic Disorder

Most of these disorders can have disassociative symptoms themselves and may onset depersonalization/derealization disorder.

Does treatment work for Depersonalization disorder (DPD/ DPDR)?

Outcomes for treatment are good. However, both patient and therapist must work diligently for recovery to be successful long-term. The therapist must work with the patient to discover the memories and stressors that trigger episodes of disassociation. By looking at the underlying reasons for the condition, patients can learn to cope with anxiety, fear, and stress.   

Having depersonalization/derealization episodes can be very disorienting and troublesome. In addition, the characteristics of the condition keep you emotionally distant from yourself and the world around you. 

By working with a therapist and learning how to manage stress and anxiety, people with depersonalization/derealization can live everyday lives. 

If you would like to learn meditation to help you manage anxiety and stress, MindTastik can help. We have hundreds of reflections that are relaxing and soothing. So whether you are just beginning a meditation practice or want to enhance your current routine, MindTastik is here for you. You can download MindTastik on the Apple App Store or Google Play.