Depersonalization/derealization disorder a dissociative disorder by itself. But those with DID can also experience the same symptoms. The DSM5 criteria say that if there is another dissociative disorder it’s better to diagnose that one. Hence those with DID/OSDD do not receive an extra diagnosis when they experience depersonalization/derealization.
The DSM5 explains the following on Depersonalization: Experiences of unreality, detachment, or being an outside observer with respect to one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, or actions (e.g., perceptual alterations, distorted sense of time, unreal or absent self, emotional and/or physical numbing).
Derealization: Experiences of unreality or detachment with respect to surroundings (e.g., individuals or objects are experienced as unreal, dreamlike, foggy, lifeless, or visually distorted.
Some depersonalization and derealization examples:
Not feeling real, hearing sounds too loud or too soft. Objects look the wrong size and this can include your body. Not recognizing your reflection. Feeling like you are on autopilot or a robot. When your thoughts do not feel like your own, when you cant feel your feelings, when you watch yourself from the outside, out of body experiences. Everything around you feels fake, lifeless or artificial. Certain things or everything looks like a dream, fuzzy, vague, foggy or with a blur.
The book The haunted self on the theory of structural dissociation (a DID theory we will discuss here soon,) explains that when a non trauma carrying alter (ANP) knows about a traumatic memory but does not have the correct emotional response, this is because of depersonalization. The same book also explains that knowing you are part of a system, body or person but it does not feel like that or it’s hard to believe is because of depersonalization.
The onset can be sudden or gradual and episodes can last from hours to even years. Stress and/or environmental factors can trigger episodes or make symptoms worse.
Treatment can include talking therapy, CBT, mindfulness and learning grounding techniques. You can also try to be co-conscious with an alter who experiences less or no depersonalization. We will discuss the topic of grounding here in the near future in our article on coping tools. Here is a good article by DID Research on it, in case you want to know about it sooner: http://did-research.org/treatment/grounding.html
Do you experience depersonalization/derealization? Feel free to share in the comments. We are of course also interested to hear what coping skills you use to combat depersonalization/derealization. Join the discussion. To really engage and learn from each other we invite you to join our Power to the Plurals Facebook group.
This is also where you can find The Stronghold System (Sarah Clark) and TheMyriad System (Ashton Parker) personal experience with the topic we discuss. We hope for active interaction between members of the group.