Many people experience symptoms of a depersonalization/derealization disorder during their life. You may feel disconnected from yourself or your surroundings. These feelings may not be cause for alarm. But if they interfere with your life, talk to your healthcare provider so you can get treatment.
Depersonalization disorder, also called derealization disorder, is when you feel:
People with this condition do not lose touch with reality. They realize their perceptions aren’t real. Depersonalization or derealization disorder can also be signs of other conditions, such as:
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Depersonalization/derealization disorder is a type of dissociative condition. Dissociative disorders are mental conditions involving disruptions or breakdowns in:
The difference between depersonalization and psychotic disorders is awareness. People with depersonalization disorder know the feelings of detachment are not real. People with psychosis believe their feelings are reality.
Most people with this disorder develop it when they are young. The average age for developing depersonalization disorder is 16 years. It rarely begins after age 40.
It's pretty common to experience depersonalization that comes and goes. You might have a fleeting feeling of being detached from yourself or your environment. It may feel like you’re watching yourself in a movie, and then those feelings go away. Experts call this transient depersonalization. About half of people feel this from time to time. But the actual disorder — where depersonalization is long-lasting and doesn't come and go — happens in less than 2% of the population.
Researchers don’t know what causes these disorders. In up to half of the cases, healthcare providers cannot identify what triggers the disorder.
Biological and environmental factors may play a role. Some people may be at higher risk for developing a dissociative disorder due to:
Dissociative disorders can also occur after intense stress or trauma, such as:
Other causes include:
The main symptom of depersonalization/derealization disorder is feeling disconnected. You may feel:
Some people experience mild, short-lived symptoms. Others have chronic (ongoing) symptoms that may last for years. The symptoms may interfere with your ability to function. They may even lead to a disability.
If you have symptoms, your healthcare provider will assess you. You’ll have a medical history and physical exam.
No lab tests can diagnose dissociative disorders. But your provider may want to do blood or imaging tests (X-ray, CT scan or MRI). These tests can rule out physical illness or medication side effects.
Your healthcare provider may refer you to a mental health professional. A psychiatrist, psychologist or psychiatric social worker can help diagnose and treat you. These providers talk to you to understand your experiences and how you’re functioning.
Often, people seek treatment because they’re concerned about symptoms such as depression. The depression may be a bigger issue than the disorder. You may need treatment if the:
The goal of treatment is to address the stressors that trigger the symptoms. Your healthcare provider plans your treatment based on your:
Treatment often includes a combination of:
Psychotherapy: Talk therapy is the main treatment for dissociative disorders. Your provider may opt for one or more of these methods:
It may not be possible to prevent depersonalization/derealization disorder. But it’s helpful to recognize the symptoms so you can get treatment.
If you have experienced a traumatic event, seek help. Quick intervention can reduce the risk of developing a dissociative disorder.
Complete recovery is possible for many people. In some people, the disorder disappears on its own.
Others recover by going to therapy and dealing with the triggers. Therapy helps resolve the underlying issues. Keep going to therapy to prevent the symptoms from coming back.
The disorder may become chronic when it does not respond to treatment. Your provider will discuss the best next steps for you.
The outlook for people with this disorder is good. The symptoms associated with depersonalization disorder often go away. They may resolve on their own or after treatment to help deal with symptom triggers. Treatment is important so that the symptoms don’t come back.
If symptoms interfere with your life, talk to your healthcare provider. The right treatment plan often gets rid of the symptoms, and you can get back to your life. Continue with the treatment to resolve the stressors that trigger your symptoms.
If you have depersonalization disorder symptoms, ask your provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Depersonalization/derealization disorder may feel jarring. You may feel detached from yourself or your surroundings. If these feelings happen occasionally and for a short time, you may not need treatment. However, if the symptoms cause stress or interfere with your life, talk to your healthcare provider. Therapy can help you deal with the triggers and prevent the symptoms from returning.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/15/2020.
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