We have already seen that the experience of severe trauma can lead to us reacting (although it is a reaction created by unconscious processes, not a reaction we deliberately choose, of course) by developing a psychological defense mechanism known as depersonalization , which produces in us a sense of ‘unreality’ – as if we are living in a kind of dream world and are strangely detached and disconnected from the real world.
Essentially, it is our mind’s way of protecting us from fully experiencing a reality which has become intolerably psychological painful. However, this ‘protection’ comes at a very heavy price; indeed, I know, from my own personal experience, that the condition of depersonalization itself is very distressing.
In this article, I want to take a detailed look at the main symptoms of this disorder.
The Symptoms Of Depersonalization Disorder:
– the world seems lifeless and colourless. All experiences leave you feeling flat. There is no excitement or pleasure (an inability to experience pleasure is sometimes referred to by psychologists as anhedonia).
– you feel like a ‘detached observer’ of your own life, almost as good if someone else is playing the part of you in a movie that you are watching; you feel you are just going through the motions of living, like a robot or an automaton.
– you have lost the feelings of affection that you once had for your friends and family
– you may laugh and cry but you have ceased to feel the emotions that normally accompany such behaviours
– your head feels empty and devoid of thought and when you speak you feel you don’t know where the words have come from, as if your speech is automated
– your memories don’t feel like your own, as if you never experienced the events that are held in your memory
– you no longer feel fear in connection with things that once would have frightened you, just a numbness
– you are unable to visualize (eg the faces of your friends or family)
– you sometimes feel the need to touch your body in order to confirm you really are a present, physical, existing entity
– you sometimes have the feeling that your hands and/or feet are bigger/smaller than they really are (this is sometimes known as body dysmorphia).
– your body feels as if it is floating
– your body doesn’t feel like your own
– you feel as if you are ‘outside’ of your body
It is not necessary to suffer from all of the above symptoms to be suffering from depersonalization. However, the more symptoms one has, the more intense the symptoms are and the longer they persist the more likely it is that one has the condition.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).