Depersonalization has been documented in medical literature for more than 100 years. Psychologist Ludovic Dugas first introduced the term depersonalization into the psychiatric literature, providing the condition with a name for the first time.
Dugas defined depersonalization as “As a state in which there is the feeling or sensation that thoughts and acts elude the self and become strange; there is an alienation of personality; In other words a depersonalization.”
“Depersonalization is not a groundless illusion, it is a form of apathy. Because the self is that part of the person that vibrates and feels and not what merely thinks or acts, apathy can be truly considered as the loss of the person.”
This “apathy” often used when describing the feeling of depersonalized people, highlights the emotional deadness of the experience. It is not a decision to be emotionally numb. It is automatic and unstoppable.
Henri Frédéric Amiel
Dugas acknowledged that he had taken the term depersonalization from an intriguing paragraph found in Henri Frédéric Amiel’s Journal Intime. The Swiss philosopher (1821-1881) had described what he was experiencing in his personal dairy.
“All is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body and individuality, I am depersonalized, detached, cut adrift.”
(Amiel, 1933; P.27)
The passage taken from the journal published posthumously seems to have been interpreted by Dugas as a description of Amiel’s mental experiences.
One of the earliest writers to view and suggest depersonalization may stem from pathological changes in the sensory apparatus was Hungarian
eye, nose and throat specialist Maurice Krishaber. He believed that “Multiple sensory distortions led to experiences of self – strangeness.”
Krishaber carried out a study on 38 patients who
all had a mixture of anxiety, fatigue and depression.
More than one third of the patients complained of baffling and unpleasant mental experiences with the feelings of unreality. Although the term “depersonalization” was not coined until 26 years later by Dugas, Krishaber’s 1872 case study, marked the first scientific study of the experience of DPD.
A look into the history of depersonalization