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Depersonalization Disorder

Depersonalization Disorder is a disorder affecting emotions and behavior. It is characterized by an change in how an affected individual perceives or experiences his or her sense of self. The usual sense of one's own reality is temporarily lost or changed. A feeling of detachment from, or being an outside observer of, one's mental processes or body occurs such as the sensation of being in a dream. This phenomena involves:

A lasting or recurring feeling of being detached from the patient's own body.

Throughout the experience, the patient knows this is not really the case. Reality experience is intact.

The phenomenon causes distress or impairs work, social or personal functioning.

The experience doesn't occur solely in the course of another mental disorder such as Acute Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Schizophrenia or a different Dissociative Disorder. (Fugue Identity).

The disorder is not directly caused by a general medical condition or by substance use, including medications and drugs of abuse.

Associated Features:

Panic Disorder

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his diagnostic attempt, has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

Temporal Lobe Seizures ( epilepsy )
Atypical forms of Migraine and Headache
Panic Disorder
Acute Stress Disorder
Another Dissociative Disorder - Fugue - Identity
Drug of Abuse


Depersonalization is the third most common psychologicical experience, after feelings of anxiety and feelings of depression, and often occurs after a person experiences life threatening danger, such as an accident, assault, or serious illness or injury. Depersonalization disorder has not been studied widely, and its cause and occurrence in the population are unknown.


Depersonalization disorder often disappears without any form of treatment and therefore professional treatment is usually recommended only if the disorder persists, recurs, or causes distress. Psychodynamic psychotherapy, behavior therapy, and hypnosis have been effective for some people. Depersonalization disorder is often associated with or triggered (precipitated) by other mental health disorders, which require treatment. Any stresses associated with the beginning of the depersonalization disorder must also be addressed.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Psychotherapy and Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is also very helpful especially if panic disorder is involved.

Pharmacotherapy [ See Psychopharmacology Section ] :

While there are no proven medications for the treatment of Depesonalization Disorder, Sedatives and antidepressants help some people, also the benefit of the use of antianxiety agents clonazepam; stimulants methylphenidate; and MAOIs phenelzine may assist the patient.

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Page Updated
17th July 2003