Depersonalization As a Symptom of Depression


Depersonalization is a fairly common symptom of depression and a sobering experience that is difficult to describe. Though hard for some to explain, depersonalization experiences are not uncommon--especially for someone who has recently been involved in a traumatic event. It is important to separate depersonalization from depersonalization disorder and to understand what triggers the experience when associated with an underlying condition like depression.


Depersonalization is a state in which a person feels detached or in some way separated from of his or her body. The sensation is often described by individuals as a sense of “floating or hovering” over one’s body, unable to experience emotions or thoughts. Much like watching oneself in a dream, the person is unable to directly feel a connection to events happening around him.


As a symptom of another disorder like depression, about 20 to 40 percent of the general population report having temporary experiences of depersonalization. This passing experience is typically the result of an existing disorder or impairment. Approximately 2 percent of the general population has reported recurrent or persistent experiences of depersonalization.


Fleeting experiences of depersonalization are frequently linked to an underlying disorder like depression. Quick depersonalization experiences also can be attributed to a severe event, in which one feels immediately endangered, or as a result of drug intoxication. Depression and depersonalization act interchangeably; many of the associated symptoms of depression can trigger depersonalization and a commonly reported effect of depersonalization is depression. If depersonalization is persistent, lasting more than just a few moments, or reoccurs and has not been linked to an underlying condition, testing may be required to rule out depersonalization disorder.


In fleeting cases of depersonalization, no immediate treatment is required. As a symptom of depression, treating the depression itself can potentially resolve the issue. The temporary experience causes minimal impairment, with most patients finding relief by addressing the individual triggers that prompted the event. Depersonalization experiences can be addressed with some form of psychotherapy, though psychotherapy is not required to treat the experience.


Symptoms of depression can include sleeplessness or excessive sleeping, a trigger for depersonalization experiences. Other symptoms of depression include apathy, uncontrolled crying or irritability, difficulty focusing and unintentional weight gain/loss. A potential symptom of depression that should not be overlooked is suicidal thinking. In the event of suicidal thoughts or behavior you should seek immediate assistance from a health care professional.

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