Depersonalization is a mental disorder belonging to the category of dissociative disorders. It is characterized by making people no longer aware of who they are. They act as if they have no feelings and look like they are out of it. This disorder is more common in elderly people. However, it can strike a person that has had an injury to the brain as well. Sadly, there are no symptoms at all preceding the complete state of depersonalization. By the time the symptoms show, the person has already lost their identity.
The word “depersonalize” means to “remove your personality”. It’s an experience of observing yourself from outside. As if your body is inhabited by an alien and you are watching yourself from afar, unable to connect. A grandfather won’t be able to recognize his grandchildren. A husband might not remember his wife. One of the many heart wrenching testimonials from depersonalized patients describes a man who walked into a grocery store to buy some stuff, and as soon as he walked out of the store, he couldn’t recall where he lived.
Depersonalization symptoms are difficult to describe. A person might describe feeling slightly detached from reality. Symptoms of depersonalization worsen rapidly due to the embarrassment that people face from opening up about them.
Symptoms of depersonalization include:
- An out of body feeling. You suddenly feel as if you are an observer of your body and what happens to it.
- A robot-like detachment from all human emotions. You simply don’t feel good or bad, you just don’t.
- Phantom ghost feeling while retaining your limbs which is called a “distorted perception of the body”. You might describe broken ribs, bones and joints without an actual fracture. You would feel as if your head has shrunk or expanded beyond normal. Sometimes people feel as if their heads were wrapped in cotton.
- A sense that your memories are not your own. They belong to someone else.
- You will have a magnified fear of going crazy which might lead to depression, anxiety and recurring panic attacks.
Depersonalization Disorder Test
Depersonalization tests are available all over psychology-specific websites on the Internet. It mainly focuses on your memory and how your detachment experiences might interfere with regular daily activities or relationships with your friends and family.
It is recommended, however, that you see a psychiatrist if you want to take a depersonalization disorder test. A therapist will know how to analyze the test results more efficiently using psychoanalytical methods. Therapists understand the results on a deeper level and might perform extra tests (physical exam and a complete medical history).
There is no FDA-approved medical treatment for the disorder itself. Most people who seek treatment are actually seeking it for the accompanying symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
That being said, treatment is case-specific. Some therapists might recommend a course of anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants. Others might focus on counseling and behavioral therapy.
The core of depersonalization treatment is digging deep beyond the superficial stressors. Most cases of depersonalization are caused due to cumulative childhood trauma like psychological abuse, dysfunctional family settings or neglect.
Alternative methods of treatment have been suggested for relief of depersonalization symptoms. Music therapy is a very successful method of treatment due to its positive impact on memory and balancing people’s emotions by allowing them to come to terms with their darkest moments. Many patients have found it helpful to sleep with the music on as it retains their memories for longer periods as well as creates an overall feeling of harmony.
Other alternative treatment methods include:
- Daily mindful meditation.
- Diet makeover: throw away all the processed food, add omega-3 fatty acids to your daily meals, and eliminate excess sugar, gluten and dairy.
- Positive thinking methods.
- Creating better relationships with other people.
- Keeping a daily gratitude journal.
What Can You do?
- Remove all caffeine and alcohol from your diet.
- At times depersonalization is a side effect of certain medications when taken for a long period of time. These include: antihistamines, antipsychotics, LSD, marijuana, benzodiazepines, carbamazepine, fluoxetine, hallucinogens and more.
- Improve your sleep patterns as sleep deprivation has been known to precipitate for depersonalization symptoms.
- Give back to the community. Donate to local organization specialized in research for this dissociative disorder.
- Accept your sensations no matter how extreme.
- Practice breathing exercises to overcome the hyperventilation associated with depersonalization.
- Know that you are “here and now”. Repeat to yourself “I belong to this world. I am part of this world. This is real.”
- Hold on to something dear to you like the photo of a loved one or schedule a daily phone call with someone who cares about you.
- Don’t avoid going out because of how you feel. Avoidance will lead you to more isolation and thus your symptoms worsen.
- Involve yourself in an online forum.