Imagine you wake up from a terrifying nightmare and you still oddly feel like you are not yourself. You go to wash your face, and you feel like you are outside of your body, then you strangely feel like you are watching yourself few steps away from where you really are. This may happen at least once in our lives. But what about if it happens all the time?
Depersonalization-Derealization disorder may not be popular as much as other mental disorders such as depression, ADHD, OCD etc. I have came across with clients who actually had depersonalization disorder but their therapists could not diagnose the actual problem. To be honest, even as a psychology student, I have few colleagues who actually know the meaning of these words.
People with depersonalization disorder extremely feel like they are disconnected, isolated and detached with the external world. The world is unreal, strange and foreign. The self is separated from their own physicality, meaning that their own feelings, emotions, bodily sensations and movements feel detached from themselves -the experience of ‘no-self’. It’s like a split between the experiencing-self and the observing-self. People with depersonalization, describes best their condition as living and seeing the world behind a glass wall, living in a dream, or, living in a movie. Everything around them may seem like a movie, however, this does not mean that they lose contact with reality.
Many psychologists do not define depersonalization disorder as a psychic disorder such as schizophrenia or other neurological impairments, instead, they see it as a mental state resulting from depression, anxiety, or panic disorders. Nevertheless, depersonalization may also be triggered after certain fatal diseases, accidents, intense stress or a traumatic event – such as war, abuse, accidents, disasters, or extreme violence –
For some people, depersonalization may last just for a short time, maybe for minutes in a stressful event; however, for the others it may last for years; Here is the case of James (not his real name):
“I can’t take it anymore, doctor. You must help me.” pleaded James, 42 years old man. “You’re the fifth psychiatrist I’ve seen. No one knows how to help me” he said. “One day I was walking around the city, when suddenly I found myself looking down at myself from somewhere near the awning of a store. It was unreal and the weirdest thing in the world!” he exclaimed, his hands shaking. “Since then, and that was 20 years ago, I’ve had one experience like that after another and never completely felt like I was back in my body. I constantly feel spaced out.”
Depersonalization may be scary, but it is not harmful.
Are you living in a dream, too?
By Nefise S.