Depersonalization Disorder - Feeling Unreal


What is Depersonalization Disorder?

Depersonalization disorder is a mental disorder that distorts a person's sense of reality. It affects a person in a way that can be hard to articulate, but the afflicted individual feels there is something is wrong with their body. It creates a sense of being "outside" the body. Patients often describe their experiences as if they were in a dream. The person feels as if life is in the third person; observing from afar while still exerting some form of control. This feeling of limited control can hamper motor skills and bring about speech impairment.

Depersonalization disorder can be brought on in a multitude of ways. In the case of several patients, illegal drugs such as marijuana and ecstasy were factors, while in the case of others it seemed that the vulnerability to the disorder may have been inherited, and in others still it is not known how it may have been contracted.

Depersonalization disorder does not seem to be more common in different groups of people, instead it seems to arise more from the situations encountered rather than the genetic makeup of the person. That being said, there are some people who are inherently more prone to mental diseases, and this is no exception.

Depersonalization Disorder Comorbidity

Depersonalization disorder has been found along with other disorders, including major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic symptoms. Depersonalization disorder symptoms have been found to precede obsessive symptoms, as well as depressive symptoms.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and depersonalization disorder share several symptoms, such as abnormal, ego-centered thoughts. Where they differ however, is that obsessive-compulsive disorder brings upon exaggerated thoughts of harm and an uncertain perception of the future.

Depersonalization, on the other hand, creates thoughts of discomfort, and a misinterpretation of the senses. This creates the "out of body" experiences that are common with this disorder. OCD is commonly coocurring with depersonalization, but much of the time there are obsessive symptoms instead of the entire disorder.

Panic attacks are commonly associated with depersonalization for obvious reasons. However, panic attacks are not as harmful and are easier to treat through therapy. Several patients with depersonalization disorder experience panic attacks prior to having the disorder.

Treatment for Depersonalization Disorder

Treatment for depersonalization has been successful by SSRI medications such as fluvoxamine or fluoxetine. These medications are known as serotonin reuptake blockers, which have been used to treat OCD and panic attacks. It is not known whether the medication have a more pronounced effect when used with patients with prior mental illnesses, but it has been used to treat patients with or without prior difficulties with mixed results; most were positive, but there were some with no effect. It is not known how well therapy works with depersonalization disorder, but it has been tried with some successful results. Further research is required.


Depersonalization disorder is a mental disorder that is not as common as other disrders such as depression or OCD. It is, however, a serious illness that we do not fully understand. It is treatable through therapy and medication, and researchers are trying to find better ways of treating illnesses like it.

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