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Mental Mondays: What Exactly Is Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder?

Mental Mondays: What Exactly Is Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder?



epersonalization-Derealization Disorder (DDD) is a form of dissociative disorder where a person feels they keep having an out-of-body experience. They seem to be watching their lives from the outside and have a sense that things aren’t real. It’s almost like watching your life play out like a movie. When these cascades of events happen often and have become the norm, it results in the above-stated mental condition.

Symptoms of Depersonalization-Derealization disorder

While some psychologists believe this type of dissociation is your system’s natural way of protecting you from trauma or stress, others think DDD is an effect of a traumatic event(s). Below are some symptoms of Depersonalization-Derealization disorder:

Depersonalization symptoms;

This is connected to a relationship an individual has with oneself. They include:

• Feeling like a robot due to the inability to connect emotions with memories
• Feelings of numbness
• An overall feeling of being disconnected from oneself
• Feeling like you’re going crazy

Derealization symptoms;

This is linked to a person’s relationship with his/her environment/surroundings/others and present as:

• Feeling like your environment isn’t real, almost like a hallucination
• A faulty sense of time where a person mumbles up the timing of memories

Causes of Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder

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The main reason behind this condition is still debatable, but the percentage is higher for the individuals mentioned below;

Post-traumatic stress disorder

In the case of trauma, a person’s coping response could be to mentally disassociate themselves from the horror of the experience. Sometimes, we want to detach ourselves from the reality of trauma. We all prefer it never happened, and would consciously separate our minds from the memory to reduce the triggering effect.

• Drug abuse

It was Friday night and Vicky needed to dance off the week’s stress. She chose to club at a lounge close to her street to let off some steam. As she got in, she noticed everyone was acting weird, but in a happy way. Next thing, a guy in an all-black outfit tried to sneak a drug into her hands.  She later found out it was called Ketamine. He left in shock after a failed attempt to sell his ‘wares.’ “How were you let in here if you didn’t know the basic street code?” he asked with a look of disdain on his face. Oh well, boring Vicky was out here being judged for ignorance and lack of ‘wokeness.’

Ketamine causes dissociative anesthesia — a trance-like state that brings about pain relief and amnesia. Also, alcohol, cannabis, and other recreational drugs may have this effect on an individual.

A symptom of other mental conditions

Many individuals with depersonalization disorder are usually diagnosed with other mental conditions like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia, and schizophrenia.

Stress-induced causes

When a person experiences major emotional or financial stress, it could lead to Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder. Severe insomnia might also trigger the same effect.

When do I need help?

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Most individuals might have had this mental disorder at intervals in life, but when it becomes a constant occurrence, that’s a sign to treat as urgent. As a rule of thumb, any mental or physical issue that affects relationships and normal daily routines should be prioritized ASAP. If depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, and/or hopelessness keep sneaking in on you, get yourself checked by an expert to avoid further complications.

Note: In the situation whereby depersonalization-derealization disorder becomes a recurring experience or never goes away, do not trivialize the situation. Contact a professional immediately.

How is Depersonalization-Derealization disorder diagnosed?

Bear in mind that it’s considered normal to feel detached from yourself or the world every now and then. It only becomes a cause of concern when it’s recurring or constant. Also, the main difference between DDD and other mental illnesses like psychosis is the awareness that these feelings of detachment aren’t real.

Here are a few tips on how to cope with Depersonalization-Derealization disorder…

#1. Improve your knowledge

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Studying more about the condition can create awareness, combat fear and anxiety, and help a person feel seen. Take some time to invest in knowledge that arms you as to what’s going on. You can begin by reading blogs, speaking with professionals, reading books, etc. Remember, knowledge is indeed power.

#2. Engage your senses

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

It helps to consciously try to feel things when dissociative disorders’ symptoms surface. Consider listening to your favorite music, holding an ice cube in your palm, meditating, and/or breathing exercises.

#3. Update your lifestyle


When possible, have a sleep pattern (sleep and wake up at a set time every day). A healthy sleep routine fights stress and tames the manifestations of anxiety. You should also consider improving your daily activity levels with exercises. Just like a good sleep routine, exercising can also curb feelings of anxiety.

Treatment of Depersonalization-Derealization disorder

One of the common treatments for DDD is cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, trauma-focused therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Occasionally, these approaches are supplemented with medicine. With proper treatment, people regain a deeper understanding of their thoughts and feelings. Therapists also help build stamina and the ability to cope in preparation for future episodes.

Featured Image:  Mike_Kiev | iStock

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