Dissociation: Depersonalization vs. Derealization

Dissociation: Depersonalization vs. Derealization

By: Brianna Richardson

What is Dissociation?

Dissociation is an involuntary mental response in which an individual becomes disconnected from themselves and/or their surroundings. Dissociation occurs in times of intense worry (panic) or trauma and is a symptom of many mental health disorders, such as, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.

There are two types of dissociation a person may experience, depersonalization and/or derealization.

Depersonalization vs. Derealization

Depersonalization and derealization are associated with our bodies fight or flight response. In situations of high anxiety, it is our human instinct to ‘fight’ (fight against the high anxiety situation), or ‘flight’ (flee the high anxiety situation). But in situations of intense worry where a person cannot fight or flee, our body responds by dissociating (depersonalization and/or derealization). Dissociation works to distort experiences of high anxiety or trauma as a means of coping with the situation. It distorts these experiences in following two ways…

            Depersonalization is more introspective than derealization, in the sense that it detaches an individual from themselves. People who experience depersonalization often describe, ‘not feeling real’, or feel as if their memories don’t belong to them.

Other Symptoms Include:

  • Observing yourself in third person (like floating outside of or looking down at yourself).
  • Body Distortions (limbs feel like they don’t belong to you, limbs look too big or too small).
  • Emotional and physical numbness.

            Derealization is more exteroceptive than depersonalization, in the sense that it detaches the individual from the outside world. People who experience derealization often describe, ‘feeling like life isn’t real’, or that ‘life feels like a movie or a dream”.

Other Symptoms Include:

  • Life feeling like a simulation (life feels unreal, foggy or dream-like)
  • Visual distortions (tunnel vision, altered distance, etc.)
  • Time distortions (time feels to slow or fast)
  • Audio distortions (sounds are too loud or too soft)

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of derealization or depersonalization please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com




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