Get Your Head Out of the Clouds

Depersonalization disorder challenges sufferers sense of reality


By Emma Bessinger, Reporter

Depersonalization/derealization disorder involves a persistent or recurring feeling of being detached from one’s body or mental processes, like an outside observer of one’s life (depersonalization), and/or a feeling of being detached from one’s surroundings (derealization).

This is me, I feel out of control, out of touch, like nothing is real. I’ve had this disorder from childhood, but I thought it was normal to feel this way until I was told it isn’t. To feel like God’s puppet or to feel like an outsider of life. I promise it seems worse than it really is; honestly it’s great to be this way sometimes, detaching from reality in a time of stress makes you feel…okay.

This disorder comes from extreme stress in childhood and is like a minor form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, but a major form of PTSD. I will not go into detail about what trauma I’ve faced, but I will go into detail about everything regarding this disorder.

First, let’s get the big questions out of the way. No, I don’t feel detached all the time, but when I’m stressed, tired, feel endangered, or if I’m manic I do. And yes, I know what I’m experiencing is not real.


  • Being emotionally abused or neglected during childhood
  • Being physically abused
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Having had a severely impaired or mentally ill parent
  • Having had a loved one die unexpectedly
  • Depression or anxiety, especially severe or prolonged depression, or anxiety with panic attacks
  • A history of using recreational drugs, which can trigger episodes of depersonalization or derealization

Now, these causes seem bad, but I don’t really remember most of my childhood so I’m not sure what all I’ve faced. That’s a big symptom of trauma in childhood, my memory is splotchy. I can remember being 6, but I can’t remember being 7-9. I can remember my 10th birthday, but that’s it. (You get the gist, right?) Some memories are still present, some memories are gone. That’s it.


  • Feeling detached from one’s body, mind, feelings, and/or sensations
  • People may also say they feel unreal or like an automaton, with no control over what they do or say. They may feel emotionally or physically numb. Such people may describe themselves as an outside observer of their own life or the “walking dead.”
  • Feeling detached from the surroundings (people, objects, or everything), which seem unreal
  • People may feel as if they are in a dream or a fog or as if a glass wall or veil separates them from their surroundings. The world seems lifeless, colorless, or artificial. The world may appear distorted to them. For example, objects may appear blurry or unusually clear, or they may seem flat or smaller or larger than they are. Sounds may seem louder or softer than they are. Time may seem to be going too slow or too fast.

Depersonalization-Derealization can be a symptom of other disorders, such as OCD, PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, or epilepsy. Or it could be caused by drug use (hallucinogens, alcohol, marijuana, ketamine) and withdrawals from intoxicants. Due to this, being diagnosed may require neurological or drug tests to rule out possible outside forces. Along with the tests, patients will have to fit in with certain standards:

  • The person persistently or repeatedly has a sense of depersonalization or derealization. During these experiences, the person is aware that these changes are not reality.
  • These symptoms result in distress and difficulty carrying out routine tasks.
  • The symptoms do not happen because of another disorder or the use of a medication or other substance.

This disorder does not go away, but there are treatments to help people cope. A combination of medications is the most common choice, but cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a second runner up.

Life might not be the best, but to feel like you’re consistently in a dream/ LSD trip is worse. Help yourself, go see a doctor, or create a personal improvement system. Become grounded to the world, but don’t expect a quick fix.