Depersonalization Disorder: Lost Inside The Self Issue 1, May, 2014 - Page 12

Symptoms of dpd


A noticeable feature of DPD is the feeling of being detached and observing the self and one’s own actions and behavior. Sufferers may often describe the detachment as a kind of split in their subjective awareness. This split could be could be reported as two minds, one which observes behavior while the other goes through the motions.


One of the most highly reported features of DPD is the change in emotional experiences. Some sufferers describe as an absolute inability to feel and subjectively experience emotions, some report loss of affection, pleasure, fear or disgust. The inability to experience such emotions is likely to be related to things looking ‘unreal’.


A recent study, which compared 16, depersonalized individuals with 48 healthy controls, to test the levels of empathy present.

The study found there was a disruption in the physiological component of affective empathy in the depersonalized individuals.

The depersonalized individuals were able to distinguish levels of disgust but this did not evoke levels of empathy.

Almost all sufferers of DP/DR struggle to describe how they are feeling to friends, family and medical professionals. This can often result in misdiagnosis and incorrect prescriptions. Sufferers often attempt to communicate their experiences with the use of ‘as if’s’ (e.g. ‘I feel as if I am in a dream, and as if nothing happening is real.’). These expressions have been traditionally interpreted as evidence of the non-delusional nature of depersonalization. The sufferer is aware of the abnormal nature of their existence, but remain convinced a marked change has taken place in them, many sufferers are able to recall exactly how they felt before the change. Amongst sufferers, some may seem more stable than others, due to the fact not all symptoms are always present and the symptoms may differ in intensity.

The following description conveys the symptoms for of DP/DR for a young sufferer I surveyed from online forum

“ I feel numb, when I don’t feel numb, I have existential anxiety. My vision is foggy, my memories feel like they don’t belong to me. Life feels like a movie, time does not exist, yesterday seems so far away, or as if it never happened.”


Sufferers of DP/DR may sufferer tremendous distress due to the prevalence of symptoms they are experiencing. Many depersonalized individuals will report that they have difficulty functioning at school or work, because they feel spacey, foggy or obsessively preoccupied while trying to figure out and understand their condition. The distress may also affect personal relationships of sufferers as many report that their intimate relationships are disrupted because of the anomalous sense of selfhood and the inability to feel connected to others.

Some people find DP/DR so distressing that every moment is a nightmare, as expressed by a sufferer surveyed from online forum

"DP/DR has affected my life in almost every possible way. Everything I do has been changed by this disorder. My social life, confidence, motivation, sleep routines are just a fraction of what has been affected."

"Nobody realises that some people expend tremedous energy merely to be normal"- Albert Camus