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Depersonalization and derealization: when everything seems a dream

Depersonalization and derealization: when everything seems a dream

November 29, 2021

Have you ever felt that something strange happened to you, as if you could observe yourself from outside your body being a spectator of yourself, or that reality becomes strange and unreal, as if everything happened in slow motion or in a set?

Depersonalization and derealization they are experiences in which oneself or the environment appear strange, as in a dream or a movie. In this article we will talk about them.

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Depersonalization and derealization: what are they?

Depersonalization is an agonizing and disturbing experience in which the person experiences a feeling of strangeness about himself, a feeling of being separated, or outside of one's own body. It frequently coexists with derealization, consisting of an altered perception of the environment that produces a sense of unreality.


The person experiences the world as if it were strange or unreal, as if it were inside a dream. In both there is an altered perception of reality, but while in depersonalization that sensation refers to the body itself, in derealization it is the environment that seems altered.

Frequently, affected patients they have great difficulty in describing these episodes and they may think they are going crazy. They can perceive alterations in the shape and size of objects and people may seem strange. An alteration in the subjective sensation of the passage of time may also appear. These experiences are not considered serious or dangerous, however, they are disturbing and quite confusing, causing great concern and discomfort, and fear of suffering an episode in the future.


Unlike psychotic disorders, where the person believes that altered perceptions are real, as in the case of hallucinations, in depersonalization or derealization the sense of reality remains intact, that is, the person is aware that their perception is not real and it is a product of your mind.

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When do they appear?

Depersonalization and derealization have been observed during states of fatigue, sleep deprivation, during infectious diseases such as influenza, or after the consumption of alcohol or drugs such as LSD, mescaline or marijuana, in the withdrawal syndrome after the withdrawal of anxiolytics. and induced by certain antidepressants such as fluoxetine. Usually triggered as a result of a high degree of anxiety and stress, being frequent in panic disorder. It can also appear in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or in schizophrenia.


Despite being a little known phenomenon, and relatively little investigated, approximately half of adults have experienced at least one episode of depersonalization or derealization in an isolated way throughout his life. However, the disorder of depersonalization / derealization is much less frequent, estimating its presence in 2% of the population.

A dissociative disorder

The disorder of depersonalization and derealization is part of the dissociative disorders within the current diagnostic classifications.

The term "dissociation" is used to describe the disconnection between things generally associated with each other. In this case, perceptions are considered dissociated, specifically the integration of perceptual experiences. Dissociation is a defense mechanism that normally serves to mitigate intense emotional pain caused by very painful experiences or traumas.

In the context of severe childhood trauma as sexual abuse, the dissociation can be considered adaptive because it reduces the intense emotional pain. However, if the dissociation continues into adulthood, when the original danger does not exist, it can be dysfunctional and lead to associated problems.

Your diagnosis

The diagnosis of depersonalization / derealization disorder consists of persistent or recurrent experiences of depersonalization, derealization or both that cause significant discomfort in the individual's life.

These episodes are not caused by medical illnesses, other mental disorders, drugs or drugs. Although, as we have seen, episodes of depersonalization or derealization do not involve any risk, and are relatively frequent in isolated cases, when they are repeated they can greatly limit life and cause great suffering in the affected individual.In these cases it is convenient to go to a professional, who provides the necessary tools to understand, manage and master this confusing, and little known disorder.


Depersonalisation or Depersonalization, Feelings of Unreality - Anxiety Symptoms 101 (November 2021).


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