Do you sometimes feel disconnected from your body and thoughts? Do you feel that you can observe yourself from outside your body like it was a dream? Do you find that you are working like a robot on autopilot? Have you felt threatened by a sense that everything is unfamiliar or unreal? Do you feel that people around you are actors in a play, or you are part of a movie? And even while you feel all this, you still realize that what you are feeling is not real. Do these episodes last for a few minutes or have they lasted longer?
If you answered yes to most of the above, you may be suffering from a dissociative disorder called “Depersonalization Disorder.” Statistics say that it affects around 1% of the population.
If you have been sleep deprived, have taken certain anesthetics (like nitrous oxide at the dentist), and are experiencing an emotional or stressful situation, like taking an exam or having met with an accident, these symptoms may be transient, and not suggestive of depersonalization disorder.
Diagnosis of depersonalization disorder is best made by a psychiatrist, social worker, clinical psychologist, or a mental health professional. An overview of personal history, physical examination, and a battery of tests are usually done to rule out any physical illness, before such a diagnosis is made. There are various assessment tools like interviews and scales, which are used to reach the diagnosis of depersonalization disorder. It is exceedingly common for a person with these symptoms to feel uneasy, to fear that they are going crazy, and become depressed, anxious, and panicky. Many people also experience trouble with their jobs and relationships, as they feel emotionally disconnected from everything.
The exact causes of depersonalization disorder are unknown, but biological and environmental factors might play a significant role. A depersonalization disorder case study might indicate that it may be triggered by intense stress, or a traumatic event such as a war experience, childhood abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional), accidents, disasters, or extreme violence that the person has undergone or witnessed. The disorder is commonly precipitated by stress, major depressive disorder, panic, and ingestion of hallucinogens.
Depersonalization disorder is generally treated with a combination of the following therapies:
5.Creative therapies like art and music therapy
6.Clinical hypnosis (although this treatment is controversial)
Medications that have been helpful to patients with depersonalization disorder include:
1.Benzodiazepine tranquilizers like Lorazepam, Clorazepate, Alprazolam, and Clonazepam.
2.Tricyclic antidepressants such as Amitriptyline, Doxepin, Clomipramine, and Desipramine.
The following are the latest medical breakthroughs that are being used in the treatment of depersonalization disorder:
1.Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Fluoxetine, Sertraline, and Paroxetine
2.Combinations of Lamotrigine and an SSRI, or Benzodiazepine and SSRIs
3.Opoid antagonists like Naloxone and Naltrexone
4. A recently completed study at Columbia University has shown positive effects from Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to treat
Depersonalization Disorder. However, it is not yet FDA approved.
One survey done by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicates that about half of the adults in the U.S. have had one or two brief episodes of depersonalization disorder in their lifetime, usually resulting from severe stress. About one-third of people exposed to life-threatening dangers develop brief periods of depersonalization, as do 40% of psychiatric patients.
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