Depersonalisation Disorder (DPD) is a mental illness, medically documented for over 100 years, but relatively unknown by the public. Precise statistics about this disorder are not known, in part because those who suffer from the disorder are often misdiagnosed with depression or anxiety. Individuals might fear being viewed as “crazy” if they share their feelings, and some mental health professionals fail to recognize its symptoms. Leading experts on Depersonalisation Disorder estimate that at least 2% of the population may suffer from this disorder, so there may be at least 600,000 people in the UK now suffering from this disorder. Surprisingly Depersonalisation Disorder occurs almost as often as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Schizophrenia.
Definition & Symptoms of Depersonalisation Disorder
Depersonalisation Disorder is a type of disorder that classifies as a Dissociative Disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders). Strict criteria need to be met in order to give a positive diagnosis. Diagnosis is difficult, so it is important that a Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist do this. Individuals who suffer from the disorder may have symptoms including:
- Feeling of being outside oneself, including mental activities, body, or parts of the body
- Feeling of automation, i.e. feeling trapped in a dream or movie
- Sensory anaesthesia, a lack emotions
- Sensations of lacking control over one’s actions, i.e. speech or motor functions
- Emotional or physical distress as a result of the symptoms of the disorder
Because the symptoms resemble other disorders such as Anxiety or Depression, DPD is often misdiagnosed. Depersonalisation Disorder can precede issues of Depression or Anxiety, or it can occur along, and can be aggravated by, Depression or Anxiety. Both men and women suffer equally from Depersonalisation Disorder. It is commonly induced by experiences with trauma (i.e. sexual, physical, or emotional) during childhood considered “less” severe than the trauma that can produce Dissociative Identity Disorder (formally known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Case studies also have reported that Depersonalisation Disorder occurs with people who have a genetic predisposition and who are abusing controlled substances – specifically Marijuana, Cocaine, Ecstasy, or Ketamine (Special K). Experts believe that the effect these drugs have on the brain can push the person “over the edge” and bring about the disorder. Sometimes this disorder develops on its own without the typically reported triggers (such as trauma or drug use) which further adds to the mystique.
Treatment of Depersonalisation Disorder
Successful treatment for Depersonalisation Disorder is difficult, because there is no pill or psychotherapy treatment that will “cure” this disorder. However, both medical and psychotherapy treatments exist, and suffers typically experience some relief from their symptoms. There is limited clinical research into the best treatment methods for Depersonalisation Disorder, but the most reputed treatments generally combine medicine and psychotherapy. Medication and psychotherapy can be effective when they concentrate on alleviating the symptoms such as anxiety or obsessive aspects that typify the disorder. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has also been tested for its effectiveness for treating Depersonalisation Disorder, and has shown some measured success.
Depersonalisation Disorder can cause feelings of becoming “crazy” or like zombies in horror movies. Often those who suffer from Depersonalisation Disorder feel isolated, anxious, depressed, and despairing because they believe they are the only ones with their symptoms. Statistics have shown that this is not true, and estimates place Depersonalisation Disorder as one of the most often occurring mental health issues. If you or someone you know has concerns that they are suffering from Depersonalisation Disorder speaking to a professional can help. Research has shown that combining medication and psychotherapy, specifically CBT, are effective in the treatment for DPD.
Harley Therapy – Psychotherapy and Counselling have a team of psychiatrists and therapists who can further assist with Depersonalisation Disorder, in particular psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.