Depersonalization disorder (DPD) is a dissociative disorder (ICD-10 classifies the disorder as an anxiety disorder) in which the sufferer is affected by persistent or recurrent feelings of depersonalization and/or derealization. Diagnostic criteria include persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from one’s mental processes or body. The symptoms include a sense of automaton, going through the motions of life but not experiencing it, feeling as though one is in a movie, loss of conviction with one’s identity, feeling as though one is in a dream, feeling a disconnection from one’s body, out of body experience (a detachment from one’s body), and difficulty relating oneself to reality and the environment.
To date, no treatment recommendations or guidelines for depersonalization disorder have been established, and it remains largely resistant to treatment. Little is known about the causes of depersonalization disorder, but biological and environmental factors might play a role.
The core symptom of depersonalization disorder is the subjective experience of unreality, and as such there are no clinical signs. Common descriptions are: watching oneself from a distance; out-of-body experiences; a sense of just going through the motions; feeling as though one is in a dream or movie; not feeling in control of one’s speech or physical movements; and feeling detached from one’s own thoughts or emotions. Individuals with the disorder commonly describe a feeling as though time is ‘passing’ them by and they are not in the notion of the present. These experiences which strike at the core of a person’s identity and consciousness may cause a person to feel uneasy or anxious.