Depersonalization Disorder: Lost Inside The Self Issue 1, May, 2014 - Page 16

Predisposing Factors and Onset

The way in which depersonalization begins is highly variable. For many sufferers chronic depersonalization is continuous, such individuals are in a continuous depersonalized state without a break. This may lead to finding it difficult to remember what it felt like to not be depersonalized. Sufferers may refer to themselves as the “old” self and the “new” self.

What triggers chronic depersonalization?

DPD along with other psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia is likely to involve genetic predispositions, this is likely but not a certainty as much less is known about the components of DPD in contrast to other psychiatric conditions.

The idea that sufferers of DPD have a predisposition towards the condition is perhaps supported by some of the personal stories sufferers describe. Some DPD sufferers remember experiencing fleeting moments of depersonalization lasting a few seconds, from an early age.

Recent studies have shown that many sufferers of DPD report significantly more traumatic experiences than those of healthy controls. In particular a history of emotional or physical abuse in childhood was found to predict the severity of depersonalization.

With this predisposition, something eventually happens to trigger the actual onset of chronic depersonalization. The trigger can be highly variable amongst different people.

A trigger that has been made apparent from sufferers and also from my own study is drugs. Although not considered the most common trigger, for those with an underlying vulnerability, drug use regularly or even once can throw individuals into a chronic depersonalized state.

Marijuana and LSD seem to be primary triggers, but DPD can be precipitated by various other drugs.

In the case of the drug being a trigger, many sufferers consider their chronic symptoms to be identical to the state they experienced during the intoxication.

Although it is common for many sufferers to have previously used marijuana with no adverse effects, they can usually remember the triggering intoxication episode as terrifying or a life-threatening experience, accompanied by a feeling of loss of control. This can be so terrifying that many sufferers do not use the culprit drug again.