Depersonalization disorder may be described as an out of body experience as the main symptom of depersonalization is a feeling of detachment or a feeling that one is an observer of one’s thoughts, feelings or body. While most people do experience symptoms of depersonalization in their lives at some time, depersonalisation becomes a dissociative disorder when it begins to interrupt daily living and becomes very upsetting. Living with depersonalization disorder may feel like you’re watching a movie of your own life, like you’re in a dream or that the whole world is “unreal.”
Derealisation is associated with depersonalisation and it is where a person feels like the objects in his or her environment are changing shape or size, like their surroundings aren’t real or that people are inhuman or automated. Derealisation is not a diagnosis in its own right but, rather, is considered part of depersonalisation.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines depersonalisation disorder as the occurrence of persistent or recurrent episodes of depersonalisation and/or derealisation that are not associated with another illness and cause significant distress. Depersonalisation symptoms must not be attributable to substance use.
According to Medscape, the signs of depersonalisation disorder also include:
• Alertness and orientation in some areas (but not others)
• Limited relatedness and eye contact
• Preoccupation and irritability
• Distressed facial expression with constricted emotion
• Limited to fair reasoning and judgement