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Depersonalization Disorder

About The Disorder

Depersonalization disorder occurs when you persistently or repeatedly have a sense that things around you are not real, or when you have the feeling that you are observing yourself from outside your body. Feelings of depersonalization can be very disturbing and may feel like you are losing your grip on reality or living in a dream. Depersonalization disorder is more common in people who've had traumatic experiences. It may be triggered by stress or trauma, and it often occurs along with other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia. While the exact cause of depersonalization disorder is not well understood, it appears to be linked to an imbalance of certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). Treatments for depersonalization disorder include psychotherapy and medications.

  • Psychological counseling. This helps you understand why depersonalization occurs and trains you to stop worrying about the symptoms so that they go away. Depersonalization disorder may also improve when counseling helps with other psychological conditions, such as depression.
  • Medications. While there are no medications specifically approved to treat depersonalization disorder, a number of medications generally used to treat depression and anxiety may help. Some examples that have been shown to relieve symptoms include fluoxetine (Prozac), clomipramine (Anafranil) and clonazepam (Klonopin).


Depersonalization disorder symptoms include:

  • Continuous or recurring feelings that you're an outside observer of your thoughts, your body or parts of your body
  • Numbing of your senses or responses to the world around you
  • Feeling like a robot or feeling like you're living in a dream or in a movie
  • The sensation that you aren't in control of your actions, including speaking
  • Awareness that your sense of detachment is only a feeling, and not reality
  • Other symptoms can include:
  • The sense that your body, legs or arms appear distorted, enlarged or shrunken
  • Feeling like you are observing yourself from above, as if you were floating in the air
  • Feeling emotionally disconnected from people you care about

When To See A Doctor

Passing feelings of depersonalization are common, and aren't necessarily a cause for concern. But ongoing or severe feelings of detachment can be a sign of depersonalization disorder or another physical or mental health condition. See a doctor if you have feelings of depersonalization that:

  • Are disturbing you or are emotionally disruptive
  • Don't go away, or keep coming back
  • Interfere with work, relationships or daily activities

You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner.

If a clear diagnosis cannot be made by your family doctor, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in brain and nervous system disorders (neurologist) or a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental disorders (psychiatrist).

Your doctor or doctors will want to make sure your symptoms are not caused by an underlying neurological condition such as epilepsy or another disorder. Because depersonalization disorder sometimes occurs along with depression or other psychological disorders, your doctor may also want to investigate whether you may have one of these conditions as well.