Depersonalization as a Symptom of Mental Illness


Almost everyone has had the feeling that they’re watching themselves. Sometimes when you’re tired or stressed, you can experience the sensation you’re watching yourself from outside your body or not in control of your movements. When this feeling persists or makes it difficult for you to function, it is called depersonalization. This is a real disorder, and it can be frightening for the person suffering it and their loved ones.

Depersonalization Definition

Depersonalization is a psychiatric phenomenon that may result from stress or traumatic incidents, especially early in life. When it occurs at a clinically significant level, it is categorized as depersonalization disorder. Doctors are not completely certain what causes this condition, but it appears to be related to severe stress or exhaustion, underlying depression and anxiety, traumatic events, and avoidant personality types.

Depersonalization symptoms are profoundly distressing and include:

  • Feeling as though you’re outside your thoughts, your body, or your feelings. You may feel as if you’re floating outside your body, watching yourself.
  • Feeling that your body or parts of your body are distorted or wrapped in cotton. You may feel numb or cushioned from the outside.
  • A sense that your body is not under your control or as if it is moving by itself.
  • Emotional numbness, like you feel when watching a movie you’re not really interested in.

These feelings aren’t uncommon, especially when you’re under stress, tired, or emotionally fatigued. If they become distressing or start to interfere with your daily routine, you need to seek assistance.

Depersonalization vs. Derealization

In instances of depersonalization-derealization disorder, depersonalization occurs alongside another condition called derealization. Its symptoms involve a loss of perception of time and space.

  • You may feel as if you are separated from loved ones by a clear pane of glass that disconnects you physically and emotionally.
  • Changes in perception: things may be blurred and distant or unusually sharp and clear.
  • Distortions in objects: things may look too close or too far away or have odd shapes.

Evidence-Based Treatment at Rising Roads Recovery

There is no specific treatment for depersonalization and derealization. The best thing you can do is seek treatment for the underlying stress and trauma that made you susceptible to these disorders.

It’s important to understand that you’re not “crazy” and that what you’re experiencing is real and distressing to you. A treatment center like Rising Roads Recovery can help you identify the stressors in your life that trigger these disorders and find a way to cope with them.

Therapists have found that various methods work to combat depersonalization and derealization, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps identify thinking patterns and emotional reactions that aren’t useful.
  • Creative therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, and even cooking classes. These help you explore alternative ways to express emotions and explore new outlets for creativity.
  • Meditation, relaxation therapy, and yoga. Mindfulness and relaxation are useful in learning to identify stress patterns and redirect yourself into more healthful ways of thinking. If anxiety is an issue, you can learn to control your breathing and other bodily reactions in stressful situations.

Rising Roads Recover offers all of these non-medication-based alternatives to traditional psychiatric care. If medication is necessary, it can be provided, but learning alternate ways to cope with emotions is always a foundational aspect of our approach.

If you are ready to take control of your disorder or just need to talk, contact our treatment team. We are here to help you heal.

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