Depersonalization Disorder

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Defining Depersonalization Disorder

Depersonalization disorder is a documented mental disorder in which the patient suffers from persistent and recurrent feelings of depersonalization (or derealization). It is classified as an independent neurotic and dissociative disorder. While not much is known about the neurobiology of the disorder, most studies indicate that the prefrontal cortex (a part of the human brain) may inhibit the proper functioning of some neurons in the brain, thereby restricting the proper functioning of the brain.

Depersonalization disorders are also known to be born in the hypothalamic (another area of the brain) areas of the brain. This area is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” mechanism and studies suggest that a traumatic event may trigger an imbalance in this part of the brain, thereby causing this disorder.


Signs and Symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder

  • The continuous feeling that you are an external observer of your body and that your body doesn’t actually belong to you
  • Turning numb to the outside world
  • Feeling that you are a robot and that you are disconnected
  • Always getting a feeling that you are watching a movie and that life is not real
  • Always feeling that you are not in a “real” world and that everything is a fairy tale
  • Feeling that your body parts have grown or shrunk beyond proportions
  • Feeling disconnected from people around you

Causes and Risk Factors

A number of biological and psychological triggers have been identified as possible causes of depersonalization. Childhood abuse is one of the strongest predictors of this disorder. People with a troubled childhood and those who are subject to constant emotional abuse are most susceptible to this disorder.

Environmental factors: People who have experienced a lot of stress and trauma, and live in conditions that are extremely hostile (war-zone, unsafe neighborhoods, etc.) are susceptible to developing this Disorder.

Biological and genetic factors: genetic mutations and other biological factors can cause some of the brain’s neurotransmitters to malfunction thereby causing depersonalization disorder. People suffering from PTSD, multiple personality disorder, or other neurological imbalances in the brain that cause “fight or flight mechanism” may lead to this disorder.

Individuals with Depersonalization Disorder are exposed to a number of risks including:

  • Decreased social functioning
  • Suicide
  • Aggression and harm to others
  • Committing crimes committed under the influence of depersonalization


Patients can also seek help from treatment centers that specialize in treating behavioral disorders, and have specific treatment plans (including psychological conditioning) for managing depersonalization. Other resources that may be found at the treatment facility may include methods such as:

  • Meditation: Meditation is a good way of overcoming instances of depersonalization. Most meditation exercises revolve around the person’s ability to control breathing and in turn, reverse the chemical imbalance of hormones in the brain.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective ways of dealing with depersonalization at the psychological level. Patients are taught to interpret their condition, which helps in understanding the causes of depersonalization and in fighting with the negative reactions.

Before attending a treatment facility for depersonalization disorder, it is important to contact the facility and ask about treatment and other services provided that may help with getting back to living a healthy lifestyle free of disorder.


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