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What’s Wrong With Me?

“Mrs. A. was a 43-year old woman who was living with her mother and son and worked at a clerical job. She had felt depersonalized as far back as she could remember. ‘It’s as if the real me is taken out and put on a shelf or stored somewhere inside me. Whatever makes me me is not there. It is like an opaque curtain…like going through the motions and having to exert discipline to keep the unit together.’ She had suffered several episodes of depersonalization annually and found them extremely distressing. She had experienced panic attacks for one year when she was 35 and had been diagnosed with self-defeating personality disorder. Her childhood trauma history included nightly genital fondling and frequent enemas by her mother from earliest memory to age 10.” (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002, pg. 220).

Usually a childhood trauma may contribute to the onset of a depersonalization disorder. The person’s perception of self is altered, making it difficult to experience situations in life normally. Increase in stress can trigger a depersonalization episode.

Symptoms of a depersonalization episode include (but are not limited to):

  • Sudden loss of self
  • Feeling of having an outer body experience (sometimes called “dissociation”)
  • Unusual sensory experiences
  • Feel “mechanical;” as though they have lost sense of reality
  • Common thoughts such as: “My body is not in harmony with my being,” or “My body does not feel like it belongs.”

The difficulties of depersonalization is that it creates:

  • Worries about feeling isolated and detached from others (imagine the trouble of relating to the people that love and care about you?!)
  • Vulnerability and embarrassment in social situations. This disorder usually begins in adolescence.

Depersonalization episodes usually occur in several other disorders such as schizophrenia, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Treatment will often be complex, involving a treatment plan that addresses multiple disorders and symptoms drawing upon a variety of therapeutic approaches.

Treatment of depersonalization disorder is sought out when episodes are reoccurring and disrupting quality of life. Individuals will establish goals to alleviate symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, as well as ways in which the person’s family can understand the nature of the individual’s disorder. Ways in which the family can support one another are also developed and strategies to implement and evaluate the plan are agreed upon.

To create a treatment plan specific to your needs, call us today.