Diseases

Depersonalization

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A depersonalization is a mental state of emergency. People who suffer from it, see their life from the outside, like a movie. The own body, their feelings, but also other people and objects are foreign to them. The origin of the separation of themselves and the environment often lies in previous traumatic experiences. Read all important information about depersonalization and derealization here.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in medical reports or on incapacity certificates. F42F48

In a depersonalization sufferers have the feeling to look at themselves from the outside. However, they are always aware that their perceptions deceive them - an important difference to psychosis.

Marian Grosser, DoctorArticle overviewDepersonalization
  • description
  • symptoms
  • Causes and risk factors
  • Examinations and diagnosis
  • treatment
  • Disease course and prognosis

Depersonalization: description

Depersonalization describes an alienation from one's own person. Affected persons have a disturbed self-perception and feel detached from their ego. In a derealization, on the other hand, those affected feel that their environment is not real. Depersonalization and derealization often occur together and are therefore referred to as depersonalization and derealization syndrome or summarized by the term depersonalization.

Almost every person in life experiences such symptoms in a weak form and for a limited time. Depersonalization disorder, however, means that sufferers suffer from episodes over a long period of time or recurrently.

Depersonalization is a disorder that has been poorly researched so far. In many cases it is overlooked. Sometimes she hides behind another mental disorder, sometimes those dare not go to the doctor with these symptoms, because they are afraid that this does not take them seriously or thinks they are crazy.

Depersonalization: who is affected?

It is estimated that about one to three percent of the population is affected by a depersonalization disorder. Very often it appears as a symptom of other mental disorders. These include depression, phobic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline disorder. As an independent disorder, it is often diagnosed in adolescence. In their study of students in Rhineland-Palatinate, researchers from the University of Mainz Clinic came to the conclusion that 12 percent of students experience depersonalisation symptoms. Depersonalisation syndrome occurs approximately equally frequently in men and women.

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Depersonalization: symptoms

Depersonalization and derealization can occur in different degrees of severity. A mild form of depersonalization can also be observed in everyday life when people are under extreme stress or after alcohol abuse. However, the altered perception of fatigue is short-lived and need not be addressed.

Reduced pain perception

Life-threatening situations that put the body under intense stress can trigger longer-lasting depersonalization symptoms. In psychologically stressful or painful situations, depersonalization reduces pain perception. It is thus a protective mechanism of the psyche from strongly unpleasant sensations.

Alienation and unreal reality

If the symptoms persist for several years or reoccur again and again, it is a mental disorder. The main features of depersonalization are the feeling of alienation, related to one's own person and the perceived unreality of reality. Those affected no longer know who they are. Some do not recognize themselves in the mirror. Your body is detached from them. This condition is also described as a feeling of lifelessness. When people feel inwardly divided into a part that acts and someone who watches, experts talk about an out-of-body experience.

Frequently affected people not only perceive themselves, but also their environment changed. This perception is so unreal that people find it difficult to put it into words. Often they describe their vision as blurry or as in a dream. People can appear lifeless, objects can be perceived larger or smaller, and noises can be heard distorted.

Automated actions

In activities they do not feel like an executive. Their actions are true, but it is as if they are standing next to each other and watching each other. Since the affected have no inner relation to their actions, they feel that they are foreign and automated.

Emotional emptiness

Depersonalization is often accompanied by a sense of inner emptiness. Persons affected by emotional events do not react. They show neither joy, sadness nor anger. They are therefore often cool and absent. These symptoms are very similar to those of a depressive mood and are not easily distinguished. Depersonalization may also appear as a symptom of depression. Conversely, depression may also occur as a result of depersonalisation symptoms.

memory problems

Individuals who have had traumatic experiences often no longer or only partially remember these experiences. Depersonalization then serves as a shield and does not allow negative memories to enter consciousness. Stress quickly causes memory problems. Events can often not be timed by those affected, because their perception of time is distorted.

to reality

Unlike people with psychosis, people with depersonalization syndrome know that their altered perception is due to their condition. People with psychotic states, on the other hand, are convinced that their view of the world is real. For example, they believe that other people can manipulate their thoughts and feelings. Individuals with depersonalization symptoms recognize that it is not the world that has changed, but that something is wrong with their perception. This knowledge increases the suffering and frightens those affected.

Pondering and fears

The fear of going crazy is a common consequence of depersonalization and derealization. Symptoms of detachment from oneself and the environment deeply unsettle people. Likewise, anxiety, compulsion and depression are often associated with depersonalization. Many speak for fear of not being taken seriously, not about their problems.

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Depersonalization: causes and risk factors

The emergence of depersonalization and derealization lead experts back to the interaction of various factors. It is thought that the predisposition affects whether the mental disorder occurs or not. So far, there is no evidence for a hereditary component.

Experts believe that people with heightened anxiety are more susceptible to depersonalization and derealization. Causes are, as with many mental disorders, often found in childhood and adolescence. Stress and traumatic experiences are the most common triggers of depersonalization.

Direct triggers of depersonalization

As a concrete trigger of depersonalization, stress plays a central role. In particular, traumatic experiences can trigger depersonalization. Severe illnesses, accidents or even professional and violent interpersonal crises can be the beginning of depersonalization. In unbearable situations, it can happen that people inwardly move away from themselves and the event. Experts believe that this response is a protective mechanism when other coping strategies are insufficient. The affected are then only physically present, but in their thoughts, they are not present. Depersonalization is often described as rest after the storm. Only when the stress decreases, the symptoms of depersonalization appear.

Early neglect

Researchers have found that, above all, emotional neglect in childhood favors depersonalization. These sufferers have received too little attention from their parents, have been humiliated or not perceived. The lack of support from the social environment can create unfavorable coping strategies. Thus, even in childhood first symptoms of alienation of themselves and the environment can occur. The severity of depersonalization depends on the intensity and duration of negative experiences.

Risk factor lifestyle

People who neglect their physical and mental health may experience depersonalisation symptoms. In addition, depersonalization may be the result of illicit drug use or alcohol poisoning. Insufficient sleep and lack of fluid may also cause symptoms of depersonalization or increase existing symptoms.

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Depersonalization: examinations and diagnosis

As the first contact, you can contact your family doctor. He will perform a physical examination if suspected Depersonalisationssyndrom. Because the depersonalization can also occur as a result of physical disorders, such as epilepsy or migraine. The doctor must also rule out that the symptoms occur as a side effect of drugs or as a result of withdrawal. Even drugs can create feelings of alienation. For the exact diagnosis and the treatment the family doctor transfers to specialists.

To diagnose depersonalization, a psychiatrist or psychotherapist conducts a detailed conversation with the patient. Using clinical questionnaires, the doctor or therapist can determine if it is indeed a depersonalization or if there are other mental disorders.

The following questions could ask the doctor or therapist to diagnose Depersonalisationsstörung:

  • Do you sometimes feel like you are a stranger to yourself?
  • Do you sometimes have the impression of looking at yourself from the outside?
  • Does your environment sometimes seem unreal?
  • Do you sometimes feel that other people or objects are not real?

According to the International Classification of Mental Disorders (ICD-10), at least either depersonalization or derealization must be present for the diagnosis of depersonalization and derealization syndrome:

  • Depersonalization Syndrome: The affected feel their feelings and experiences as foreign to them, to be detached, removed, lost or belonging to someone else. They also complain of feeling "not being right here".
  • or that
  • Derealization syndrome: Those affected perceive their environment, objects or other people as unreal, distant, artificial, colorless or lifeless.

In addition, those affected must be aware that the changed perception is not generated from the outside, but springs from their thoughts.

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