Depersonalization Disorder (DD) is a dissociative disorder to which many people can relate. Everyone feels depersonalization periodically for a brief period of time, anywhere from 5 - 30 seconds, in the course of their lifetime. The symptoms include a sense of automation, feeling a disconnection from one's body, and difficulty relating oneself to reality. more...
While an occasional moment of depersonalization is normal, a persistent feeling is not. Brief periods are notably engendered by stress, a lack of sleep, or a combination; however, a persistent feeling is not. It becomes a disorder when the dissociation interferes with the social and occupational functions necessary to everyday living. Often a victim of DD feels as if he or she is going insane, though this is almost never the case. Anxiety disorders are often linked to depersonalization, because anxiety can sometimes lead to DD. In addition, DD can cause anxiety since the person feels abnormal and uneasy at the loss of their sense of self.
Reality testing will remain intact during an episode of depersonalization, meaning that a person suffering from the disorder will be able to respond to questions and interact with their environment. This fact is distressing for those with DD; the friends and family of the victim don't realise that the dream-like state is not intentional. In fact, others may not even notice that a person has DD, since the person usually acts completely normal.
Depersonalization disorder often begins in the late teens or early twenties and usually resolves itself by age 30. While a nuisance, and very distressing to the patient, people with depersonalization disorder represent no risk to society, since their grasp on reality remains intact.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy and behavioral therapy have been used to treat Depersonalization Disorder, but in most cases the disorder will dissipate on its own. While DD is not a psychotic disorder by any means, antipsychotic drugs can often improve or completely alleviate symptoms from severe depersonalization disorder. However, not all patients are willing to tolerate the side effects of these drugs.
Diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV-TR)
- Persistent, recurring feeling detached from one’s mental processes or body; as if an observer
- During depersonalization, reality testing intact
- Depersonalization causes significant distress, and impairment in social, occupational, other functioning
- Depersonalization not related to another disorder, substance abuse, or general medical condition
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