Wednesday, May 12, 2010


As promised here is more information on my depersonalization. I at first thought to write a documentary style post detailing what depersonalization is, but I will forgo that approach and write how depersonalization affects me and my life.

I have had depersonalization (DP) since I was a child - about eight years old. I cannot say for certain whether it was always there, or if it came and went. I know it has grown in severity the past few years. During childhood and adolescence I would have "shifts" every few months. Shifts are when my view of myself and the world changes. They are hard to describe, but basically I will go from being aware of my body (feeling inside it, a part of it), to feeling like I am watching a movie. Sometimes these shifts were not from "normal" to DP, but from one level to another. I catagorize DP into different levels of severity. For example,

1 - slight feeling of separation, but able to overcome it
2 -
3 - not connected to self and body, limbs and face are unfamiliar in the mirror, or to my face
4 -
5 - I have no conscious thoughts, all words, actions and phenomenon seem foreign. There is no feeling of being "me"

For level five, I cease to feel like I exist. Sure, I know I do, but I have no connection to myself or my mind. I cannot think to myself, or even comprehend that I (And sometimes the world) actually do exist. I feel like time is irrelevant and that nothing is truly real. (note, this does not mean I am psychotic, I still differentiate between reality and fantasy/dreams).

Naturally, it is a disconcerting feeling, although by level four or five, I no longer notice. For the past few months I have fluctuated between level four and five, hitting level three once or twice. As I write this I am at level five. It is difficult to interact with others, as I cannot follow long complicated conversations, and have trouble remembering things. I also feel separated from humanity which makes interactions awkward and stressing. Furthermore, I get dizzy and physically ill if I get agitated. On bad days, I cannot concentrate for more than 30 seconds before I space out. It is difficult to retain new information, or to be productive. Thus, I am unable to become employed (not even factoring in high anxiety) because I cannot be reliable. DP is not well researched, and there really is no treatment or cure. The majority of psychologists have very little idea what it is or why it comes about.

For some, it comes as a result of substance (primarily pot) abuse, while for many others it is a bodily defence against trauma. For some there is no apparent cause. Treatments can be medications to relieve anxiety, or therapies but no method is proven to work. Currently I am on a SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) which serves mostly to alleviate severe anxiety and depression. In my experience the only treatment which sometimes works is anti-histamine which makes me able to focus better.

This post is brief, but I hope it gives an idea as to what it is like to live with depersonalization. I'll answer any questions if you have them.


  1. wow that's tough. Suffering with depression myself I can't say that I totally understand what it must be like to live with depersonalization but I understand the inability to work part of it and recognize some of the other similarities to my own illness. I'm inspired by your willingness to share your experience with the rest of us and give us a glimpse into what your life is like. Thank you for this.

  2. Thank you for your description, Em. Clearly it's a difficult thing.

    My thinking is that there may be a neurotransmitter thing going on, perhaps a deficiency of one brain chemical or another, perhaps an imbalance between brain chemicals. Of course, since it hasn't been studied enough so far, it's unknown whether this is the case, but it wouldn't surprise me. Perhaps they'll discover such a thing and then there may be a prescription treatment or something, who knows? Could it be genetic?

    The brain is a very mysterious thing, no doubt, and much remains unknown about it.

    I'm glad you're still able to communicate online like this...

  3. As far as studies go - most are informal surveys online, but there is little to no genetic component. From my experience it worsens with stress, or anxiety. I have experienced flashbacks as a result of PTSD. While really DP I do not have PTSD, so it is a bodily defense in some cases, and it is not consistent, so an imbalance (to my limited medical knowledge) isn't the cause.


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