Tag Archives: Depersonalization

Identity Disturbance And Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

identity disturbance

identity problems

BPD And Identity Disturbance :

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that one of the defining symptoms of borderline personality disorder (a condition strongly associated with childhood trauma) is identity disturbance. In other words, many individuals with BPD have an unstable self-image and no firm sense of their identity ; they may sum up such issues by using expressions such as : ‘I don’t know who I am.

Individuals suffering from identity disturbance may :

  • have an unstable self-image that frequently oscillates between two extremes and an inconsistent view of self over time
  • become obsessed by their appearance, even to the extent that they develop conditions such as body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia nervosa.
  • lose touch with reality (dissociation)
  • experience feelings of derealization and/or depersonalization
  • attempt to develop an unrealistic, idealized self (e.g. trying to adopt the image of a famous movie star) only to feel empty and deficient when this inevitably fails
  • act as ‘social chameleons‘ (find that, because of their weak and uncertain sense of their own identity, they mimic the behaviors, values and attitudes of those they happen to be associating with at any given time
  • live by inconsistent standards and principals
  • have inconsistent view of the world and their place in it

social chameleon

Categories Of Identity Disturbance :

Some psychologists break identity disorder associated with BPD into four categories ; these are as follows :

  1. ROLE ABSORPTION
  2. PAINFUL INCOHERENCE
  3. INCONSISTENCY
  4. LACK OF COMMITMENT

Let’s look at each of these four categories in a little more detail :

ROLE ABSORPTION :

This involves individuals with an intrinsically weak sense of their own identity desperately attempting to create one by defining themselves through a particular role or cause. This may involve adopting a different name and radically altering their world view, values and belief system. Such individuals are vulnerable to being lured into cults whereby they may completely subjugate any sense of their own identity and, instead, overlay it with the identity into which the cult leader inculcates and indoctrinates them. Such individuals are obviously at high risk of being exploited by unscrupulous others.

PAINFUL INCOHERENCE :

Those who fall into this category constantly experience a distressing sense of emptiness (to read my previously published article, which goes into greater detail about this, entitled : ‘Constantly Feeling Empty? Effects And Solutions’ , click here.

INCONSISTENCY :

Individuals in this category are prone to changing their values, attitudes and opinions according to the people they happen to be associating with at any given time and, because of this, are sometimes referred to as ‘social chameleons’, as referred to above.

LACK OF COMMITMENT :

Lack of commitment can manifest itself in relation to many important areas of life including education (e.g. frequently changing courses but never completing any) ; career (frequently changing jobs) ; geographic location (frequently moving home) ; relationships (e.g. inability to maintain relationships with friends / partners / spouses) ; interests / hobbies.

Addressing Identity Problems :

To read my previously published article about how to tackle identity problems stemming from childhood trauma, click here.

 

RETURN TO BPD AND CHILDHOOD TRAUMA MAIN ARTICLE

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

What Is Psychic Numbing?

Severe emotional distress and trauma can lead to a psychological defense known as psychic numbing.

Psychic numbing occurs when our conscious experience becomes so overwhelmingly, mentally painful that our feelings, in effect, ‘switch themselves off;’ the result is a kind of psychological ‘escape from reality’ – a reality which has become too terrible to tolerate.

Those who experience psychic numbing may use metaphors in an attempt to describe their condition such as : ‘It’s as if I’ve turned to stone,’ or, ‘it’s like my heart’s become made of stone.’ Sadly, in this state, the person may feel s/he no longer cares about him/herself or others – even close family members / previously close friends.

This may sound a distressing state to be in in itself, but part of the condition of psychic numbing means, too, that the person may also not care that s/he doesn’t care.

How Long Does Psychic Numbing Last?

The condition may be a relatively transient response following a severely traumatic incident or it may become a long-term in response to protracted exposure to traumatic conditions especially, for example, if one has developed complex posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of a traumatic childhood. In such cases, the sense of psychic numbing may persist (in the absence of effective therapy) for years or even decades.

what is psychic numbing?

Are Both Good And Bad Feelings Affected?

Generally, yes. Whilst the condition may arise as a defense against bad feelings, the ability to feel anything good tends also to greatly diminish, including the loss of the ability to gain pleasure from food and sex (for more about the inability to experience feelings of pleasure, see my article about anhedonia).

The Sense Of ‘Anesthesia.’

When one is in the grip of psychic numbing, it can feel not only as if one has been given an ’emotional anesthetic’, but, sometimes, too, as if one has also been physically anesthetized as the body itself can become relatively numb to the sense of pain.

Research Into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) And Psychic Numbing :

Some researchers have suggested that the symptom of psychic numbing is intrinsically bound up in the biological responses which form the foundation of PTSD.

Psychic numbing is also closely related to depersonalization and a sense of loss of identity.

 

RELATED ARTICLE : How Childhood Trauma Can Lead To Adult Anhedonia (Inability To Experience Pleasure).

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Do You Have Depersonalization Disorder? The Symptoms.

Depersonaliztion Disorder Symptoms :

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.

For more information, including information about possible treatments for depersonalization, click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Depersonalization: How Trauma Can Leave Us Feeling ‘Unreal.’

 

One of the (myriad) symptoms of my illness can, perhaps, be best conveyed by the following example : I would look at a beautiful view, such as the sun setting on the horizon of the sea near where I live, but feel nothing. Whilst most people would feel their spirits lifted, glad to be alive, even joyful, I would just experience an emotional deadness and sense of emptiness. In fact, if anything, I would feel even worse than normal – as my inability to feel anything positive would remind me of how utterly devoid of meaning or anything vaguely approaching fulfillment my life had become.

In such situations I would sometimes try to will myself to feel at least a flicker of positive emotion, but it was impossible. It was as if the part of my brain which experiences pleasure had been excised from it by a malevolent and demonic neuro-surgeon.

Similarly, I always preferred rainy days to sunny ones because at least on rainy days there is not so much pressure on one to feel and behave cheerfully.

In short, I was suffering from a condition known as depersonalization.

 

 

What Is Depersonalization?

Whilst many people have not heard of the condition of depersonalization, and even many mental health professionals know little about it, depersonalization is, in fact, the third most common mental health condition after depression and anxiety (and people who suffer from depersonalization often suffer from depression and anxiety simultaneously).

It involves one’s sense of self becoming greatly diminished so that the concept of one’s individuality can be lost, leaving a feeling of uncertainty regarding who one actually is.

It also involves a sense of derealization. The world itself feels unreal, purposeless and meaningless. Many sufferers say it is like being in a constant dream state. In my own case, I felt that I was looking at the world through a metre thick, grey tinted, opaque glass. I was outside of things. Disconnected.

Sufferers, too, often describe feeling like an automaton or robot, simply going through the motions in life, but utterly unable to engage with the world emotionally.  Life seems pointless and absurd. The sufferer feels detached from the immediacy of the day-to-day world.

Often, too, as can be inferred from the above, people with the condition feel a profound sense of existential crisis, preoccupied with the meaning (or lack thereof) of existence. They are tormentingly aware of their condition and of the paucity of their experience of the world.

If early childhood, for some, is a magical and joyful time, this condition is its antithesis. One is cast out of Eden to inhabit, if not physical Hell, its psychological equivalent.

Other symptoms include feeling separate from one’s body. Some, too, report that everyday objects can start to seem strange, alien and ethereal.

Meeting people who used to lift our spirits now leave us feeling cold. Even people we considered ourselves to have loved. They can now bring no joy. No comfort. No consolation. It is too late.

Sufferers may be able to laugh and cry, but do not feel the emotions that normally accompany these acts. The world seems flat and two dimensional, as if experienced through a cold and dispiriting fog. One is numb, the emotions shut down. Some report feeling like a zombie – the living dead. Many feel they are going insane.

Causes of the condition are not fully understood, but often it follows severe trauma and protracted exposure to intense stress. As such, it can be seen as the mind detaching itself from reality when the reality can no longer be endured. However, the price of this protective mechanism is a heavy one indeed.

For treatment options, please click on this link.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dissociation.

childhood trauma

I have previously published articles on this site articles explaining the connection between childhood trauma and borderline personality disorder (BPD). An important symptom of BPD is DISSOCIATION, which this article will examine in greater detail.

Dissociation is generally considered to be a COPING MECHANISM in response to severe trauma (including, of course, childhood trauma) or stress. The phenomenon of dissociation can involve feeling disconnected from one’s emotions, one’s memories, one’s thoughts or even from reality itself.

Dissociation is, essentially, a way of ‘mentally escaping’ from the stressful situation, or memory of the stressful situation, by changing one’s state of consciousness (this often occurs automatically and without intention). sometimes people describe the experience of dissociation as a feeling of psychological ‘numbness.’ or ‘deadness.’

In situations of terror, one may dissociate, and, paradoxically, feel a detached state of calm. It may feel, too, that the traumatic event is not happening to oneself, but that one is ‘observing the traumatic event from outside of the body’, leading to passivity and emotional detachment.

Dissociative feelings of ‘being outside of oneself’ are described as DEPERSONALIZATION and dissociative feelings of being disconnected from reality are described as DEREALIZATION.

Some experts have described dissociation as working a bit like morphine – dampening down emotional and physical pain. However, the exact biological mechanisms are that underpin the dissociative experience are yet to be fully explained.

images

The four main types of dissociation are:

1) DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA
2) DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER
3) DISSOCIATIVE FUGUE
4) DEPERSONALIZATION DISORDER

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:

1) Dissociative Amnesia: here, large parts of, or all, the traumatic event/s cannot be remembered.

2) Dissociative Identity Disorder: this is also known as MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. Here, the person adopts two or more distinct, utterly different personas. The different personas talk in different voices, use different vocabularies etc (they can also actually differ in handedness). The different personas do not have access to ‘each others” memories, studies have shown, so they have distinct ‘personal histories’. It is likely that each persona represents a different strategy for coping with stress.

3) Dissociative Fugue: in this state, individuals can disconnect from their previous personalities, and, then, often, travel far from home to take on, and live under, a completely new persona. They may appear normal to others who have never met them before, even though they are living under a completely new identity, having left a whole life and set of memories behind.

4) Depersonalization Disorder: in this state, individuals can feel detached from their bodies or experiences. A phrase I read in a novel recently may aptly illustrate the sensation: ‘it’s like living in a dream underwater.’

A large number of people who have suffered extreme childhood trauma report experiencing such automatic dissociative states. Furthermore, they may often seek to induce dissociative states, deliberately and artificially, as a way of escaping the constant psychological pain resulting from the initial trauma by, for example, USING ALCOHOL TO EXCESS, USING NARCOTICS, SELF-HARMING or GAMBLING. The kinds of psychological state from which the individual is seeking to escape through dissociation include INSOMNIA, NIGHTMARES, FEELINGS OF RAGE and INTENSE ANXIETY.

LONG-TERM PROBLEMS OF DISSOCIATION:

Dissociation may be helpful (adaptive) in the short-term but problems develop when the state persists long after it has served any beneficial purpose. The psychologist, Lifton, described prolonged states of ‘psychic numbing’ and ‘mental paralysis’ often resulting from a dissociative response to severe trauma. This can make even basic day-to-day functioning extremely problematic and requires professional intervention.

 

 

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Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Borderline Personality Disorder.

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc (Hons); MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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