What is depersonalization-derealization disorder? 

Depersonalization-derealization disorder (DDD) often shows up with other mental health conditions. It happens when you feel like you're watching your life from outside your body. It can feel like you're watching a movie or a dream. This feeling is very upsetting. That's because you're are aware of your inner thoughts and body. But, you don't feel like you can control yourself or experience your own sensations. This serious condition can impact your day-to-day living.

Causes of DDD

Doctors don't know the exact causes of DDD. Some people are at greater risk if they've experienced very stressful or traumatic events. It may be related to your personality traits, especially if you often prefer to avoid difficult situations. Other factors that may influence whether you get DDD include:

  • Genetics
  • Childhood trauma
  • Severe emotional stress
  • Having another mental health condition, such as anxiety

Risk factors for DDD

If you have family members with this condition, you may be more likely to develop it. Tending to avoid or deny difficult situations in an effort to cope is another risk factor. Other mental health conditions, including depression or anxiety, put you at higher risk. Using some recreational drugs can also lead to DDD episodes.

Symptoms of DDD

The main symptom of DDD is that you simply feel like your life is happening in front of you. You don't feel like experiences are happening to you. You might fear you are "going crazy." That's because you're still aware of your thoughts and the situation. This sort of sensation can happen to anyone for a short time. One mark of the condition is that it happens regularly.

Other symptoms include:

  • Panic
  • Inability to gauge time
  • Feeling like a robot or an alien
  • Distorted perception of your body
  • Having trouble focusing on your surroundings
  • Feeling disconnected from people you care about in an almost physical way, like you have a wall in between you

Diagnosis of DDD

It's not uncommon or worrisome to feel passing symptoms of this condition. You might notice it happening on a somewhat more frequent basis. The feelings might disturb you. They can make it difficult to function at work or in your relationships. If this is how you feel, talk with your doctor. They can do a physical exam. This may include some blood tests to see if there are other health conditions that are impacting you. Your doctor may then refer you to a mental health professional. You can talk about your symptoms, behavior and thoughts. This helps you better understand your condition.

Treatments for DDD

DDD can last for a short time. It can also last for a long time. The goal of treatment is to get your symptoms under control. That way, you're able to live a normal, productive life. One common treatment for this condition is talk therapy. You speak with a trained mental health professional. They can help you learn techniques to feel more connected with the world around you and cope better with stress.

Treatments for DDD can also include medication. There are no medicines specifically for this condition. Instead, your doctor may recommend a medication treatment for an associated mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety.

Support groups can be very beneficial during treatment. These meetings encourage you to connect with people who know what you're going through. Experts also recommend staying engaged with family, friends and member of your faith community. Creative therapies, such as art or music therapy, can help you connect with your feelings in a safe way.

Talk to your doctor about the possibility of hypnosis. This activity can relax you. It might help you work through deep feelings or memories that you're avoiding.

Recovery from DDD

Commit to a treatment plan. Address your condition with your doctor and a mental health professional. That way, it's possible to completely recover and no longer experience any symptoms of DDD. If you don't get treatment, the condition can get worse. Talk with your doctor, especially if you're concerned that upcoming stressful situations could trigger another episode.