The mind is usually good at handling pain. Pain is your mind and body’s way of alerting you that something’s gone wrong and needs fixing.
Sometimes, however, the stress and pain become too much for the mind to handle. For example, the mind may shut down or dissociate when faced with severe trauma.
We all experience transient feelings of dissociation, like daydreaming and spacing out. The extreme version of it would be dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder).
Depersonalization is a form of dissociation where a person feels disconnected from themselves. The person feels detached from their:
Derealization is a form of dissociation whereby a person feels disconnected from their surroundings. Their surroundings seem unreal and distorted.
We may experience transient feelings of depersonalization or derealization separately, or they can co-occur. When they co-occur for a significant period and interfere in one’s day-to-day life, the person suffers from Depersonalization-Derealization disorder (DDD).
DDD can last for months or even years.1
What causes DDD?
Severe trauma, particularly interpersonal abuse, is likely to trigger DDD.
It’s observed in several mental health conditions, such as:
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Substance abuse
- Panic disorder
Some neurological conditions2 and drugs can also cause depersonalization and derealization symptoms.3
Taking the Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder test
This test consists of 20 items on a 2-point scale. Each item has two options- Agree and Disagree. You get separate scores for depersonalization and derealization. When answering the items, you can keep your current situation in mind or go back to a previous dissociative experience.
The test is not meant to be a diagnosis. It gives you a likelihood of having DDD. If you score high on both depersonalization and derealization, consider seeking professional help.
- Michal, M. (2022). Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. In Dissociation and the Dissociative Disorders (pp. 380-391). Routledge.
- Heydrich, L., Marillier, G., Evans, N., Seeck, M., & Blanke, O. (2019). Depersonalization‐and derealization‐like phenomena of epileptic origin. Annals of clinical and translational neurology, 6(9), 1739-1747.
- Simeon, D., Knutelska, M., Nelson, D., & Guralnik, O. (2003). Feeling unreal: a depersonalization disorder update of 117 cases. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 64(9), 990-997.
- Mula, M., Pini, S., Calugi, S., Preve, M., Masini, M., Giovannini, I., … & Cassano, G. B. (2008). Validity and reliability of the Structured Clinical Interview for Depersonalization–Derealization Spectrum (SCI-DER). Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 4(5), 977-986.