Depersonalization is actually something that most people feel at one point or another, even though it’s considered an anomaly. You’ve probably experienced depersonalization at some point in your life, in fact. Basically, this is the sense that you’re watching yourself act or think. You’re an outside observer of your own life, or you may feel like you’re in a dream or a movie and that your life really isn’t real. This phenomenon can happen after trauma, but it can also just pop up at random.

For most people, bouts of depersonalization last only a few minutes to a few hours, and they’re quite rare. However, some people experience serious symptoms of depersonalization disorder, in which the phenomenon of having no control over their lives or watching themselves act from the outside can cause serious disconnection with real life, including problems with work or relationships.

If you think you might have depersonalization disorder, here’s what you need to know:

Symptoms of the disorder

Symptoms of this disorder can vary a bit from person to person, but in general they include:

  • Numbed responses to outside stimuli
  • Feeling like your life is a movie or a dream
  • Being aware that you are detached and that your feelings of depersonalization aren’t real
  • Feeling like you’re observing your thoughts or body from the outside
  • Feeling like you’re watching yourself from above
  • Feeling disconnected emotionally from important people in your life
  • Feeling that your body parts are out of shape, too large, or too small

Sometimes, people will have episodes of this problem that only last a short time, but those with the true disorder will experience days, weeks, or months of depersonalization at a time. Those with a disorder often experience further complications, including difficulty focusing and remembering and problems with work, daily activities, and personal relationships.

What causes the disorder

No one really knows what causes depersonalization disorder, though scientists suspect unbalanced brain chemistry is to blame. However, it can be triggered most often by a life-threatening or traumatic event, and it may even be triggered by being afraid of having a similar experience after you’ve already had one.

Depersonalization disorder is linked to other problems, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. If you have one of these orders, you may be more at risk for developing depersonalization disorder, and you should look out for symptoms of this disorder in your everyday life.

How it’s treated

Some medications for anxiety and depression seem to lessen the occurrences of depersonalization in some patients, but there aren’t any medications for this disorder specifically. Most of the time, the best way to treat it is through psychological counseling, which can help you understand why it happens and can also help you stop worrying about the symptoms, which actually triggers more episodes of depersonalization.

If you or someone you love has depersonalization disorder, chances are likely that there is also an underlying condition with depression or anxiety. When the brain chemistry is off balance, then it’s all too easy for the brain to develop disorders like these, which often come in pairs or even in threes. Seeing a psychologist in your area who specializes in depersonalization and similar problems may be the best way to overcome your issue and to learn to understand why your brain separates itself from your life in this way.