Depersonalization Support Forum banner
1 - 9 of 9 Posts

Discussion Starter · #1 ·
While I don't intend to try and give a definitive answer to whether or not "DP" is an "illness" i.e. a mental state requiring medical attention, for I am sure we all clearly recognise that to say "Yea or Nay" we would have to be asserting a gross "generalization." And it is equally clear to me that "DP" may have many causes specific to each individual.

So at best we could be justified in claiming that it is possible that in some particular cases it may be the result of some form of medical abnormality i.e. a brain tumor or a virus which attacks the brain or perhaps the presence of brain lesions. In these cases we could feel confidant that the symptoms of DP would best be treated by addressing and treating the underlying medical disorder.

I mean would we consider suggesting to a person with a brain tumor or brain infection that the best course of action for them would be to seek out a good "psychologist"?

As I have stated above every case is different and some cases of DP may actually be cuased by a "medical condition". Nevertheless it is my humble personal opinion that most cases of DP are the result of psychological causes. And yet not simply cognitive distortions. At least I am certain this is true in my own case.

From reading the experiences of many of the people who have written on this forum it is easy to see that many "medical doctors" or psychologists, don't really have a clue of how the human mind actually works, so when they start making pronouncements that the symptoms of DP?DR are the result of a brain chemistry imbalance or some other physiological cause one may question the possible motivations underlying such assumptions.

In part I believe the "medical model" ( i.e. DP is an illness) is a result of a general philosophical "world view" filtered through the lens of a materialistically based scientific bias, which tends to deconstruct the life and feelings of a living being into a sort of combination of mechanistic ingredients easily "objectified" so as to allow the physchiatrist to tinker with the emotional and mental life of the "patient" through pharmaceutical intervention without getting involved with the real person, the actual living human being.

In my opinion this so called "scientific objectivity" may be one of the causes leading to the development of the DP condition rather than the means of alleviating it.

Now speaking for myself, in the same way that I do not regard my experiences of DP/DR to be rooted in chemical/phsyiological abnormalities, neither do I believe that DP/DR is a manifestation of some sort of thinking disorder which could be corrected by some sort of cognitive behavioral formula.

To be brief let me just say that I believe that DP, at least as I experience it, originates from a disturbance within the emotional feeling part of my psyche. If "healing" is ever going to take place for me it will be when my "feelings" recieve the "therapy" they need. Wouldn't you all agree that it is primarily our feelings, the experience of our emotions, that give us that sense of being a "self" of feeling "alive" and "real"?

I guess what I am trying to express is the longing I feel for someone with whom I can work on healing my emotional self and a degree in medicine is certainly not a prerequisite for this form of healing.

I know that from my past experience that I feel I have gained the most from "therapists" with whom I felt a strong emotional connection. Not so much a gain in understanding on the intellectual level, or ideological insight, but more like there was a sort of "therapeutic healing" which took place simply in the process of feeling emotionally connected with someone.

I guess the paradox is how does one go about feeling emotionally connected to another person when one is depersonalised? The answer to that dilemma may be what seperates a "good psycho-therapist" from all the rest of them.

Well such are the nature of my thoughts on this dreary gray afternoon.



· Registered
2,383 Posts
Dear John,

I guess I consider myself something of a biological reductionist, but I don't think we can ever separate the Nature and Nurture involved in the creation of this symptom in many people here.

I have become a great fan of "evolutionary psychiatrist" V.S. Ramachandran, M.D. a really amazing neurologist.

Have a look at his one lecture that refers to distortions in the perception of Self including depersonalization and derealization. I guess these reflect my views.

In my case, coming from a seriously dysfunctional childhood I SEE where damage was done, in terms of how I think/act/behave. As to my symptoms of anxiety/DP/depression. I think I had a predisposition that was put into play by my enviornment. Right now, I'm trying to "heal" that with some skills-based group therapy.

Each person here is unique, and I don't think any one case can be pidgeonholed. Each case has to be examined individually.

Anyway, this is a fascinating read, which discusses symptoms of Capgras, Cotard syndrome and other neurological disorders wherein an individual's sense of Self is distorted and it isn't considered mental illness, it is considered a neurological disorder.

Well, I'll shush... just have a look, it is fascinating.

We simply can't separate Nature from Nurture when it comes to human behavior. But what percent of each makes up each individual... well, we may never know or understand.


· Registered
2,383 Posts
From Dr. Ramachandran's lecture:

"I'd now like to remind you of a syndrome we discussed in my first lecture, the Capgras delusion. So, the patient has been in a head injury, say a car accident. He seems quite normal in most respects, neurologically intact, but suddenly starts saying his mother is an impostor. She's some other woman pretending to be my mother. Now why would this happen, especially after a head injury? Now remember, he's quite normal in all other respects.

Well, it turns out in this patient the wire that goes from the visual areas to the emotional core of the brain, the limbic system and the amygdala, that's been cut by the accident.
So he looks at the mother and since the visual areas in the brain concerned with recognising faces is not damaged, he says, Hey it looks just like my mother. But then there is no emotion because that wire taking that information to the emotional centres is cut. So he says, If this is my mother how come I don't experience any emotions? This must be some other strange woman. She's an impostor. Well, how do you test this?

It turns out you can measure the gut-level emotional reaction that someone has to a visual stimulus - or any stimulus - by measuring the extent to which they sweat. Believe it or not, all of you here - if I show you something exciting, emotionally important, you start sweating to dissipate the heat that you're going to generate from exercise, from action. And I can measure the sweating by putting two electrodes in your skin, changes in skin resistance - and if skin resistance falls, this is called the Galvanic Skin Response. So every time anyone of you here looks at tables and chairs, there's no Galvanic Skin Response because you don't get emotionally aroused if you look at a table or a chair. If you look at strangers there's no Galvanic Skin Response. But if you look at lions and tigers and - as it turns out - if you look at your mother, you get a huge, big Galvanic Skin Response. And you don't have to be Jewish, either. Anybody here, looking at your mother, you get a huge, big Galvanic Skin Response when you look at your mother.

Well, what happens to the patient? We've tried this on patients. The patient looks at chairs and tables, nothing happens. But then we show him a picture of his mother on the screen, no Galvanic Skin Response. It's flat - supporting our idea that there's been a disconnection between vision and emotion.

Now the Capgras delusion is bizarre enough, but I'll tell you about an even more bizarre disorder. This is called the Cotard's syndrome, in which the patient starts claiming he is dead. I suggested that this is a bit like Capgras except that instead of vision alone being disconnected from the emotional centres in the brain, all the senses, everything, gets disconnected from the emotional centres. So that nothing he looks at in the world makes any sense, has any emotional significance to this person, whether he sees it or touches it or looks at it. Nothing has any emotional impact. And the only way this patient can interpret this complete emotional desolation is to say, Oh, I'm dead, doctor. However bizarre it seems to you, it's the only interpretation that makes sense to him.

Now Capgras and Cotard are both rare syndromes. But there's another disorder, a sort of mini-Cotard's that's much more commonly seen in clinical practice (those of you here who are psychiatrists know this, or psychologists). It's called Derealisation and Depersonalisation. It's seen in acute anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other dissociative states. Suddenly the world seems completely unreal - like a dream. Or you may feel that you are not real - Doctor, I feel like a zombie. Why does this happen? As I said, it's quite common.

I think it involves the same circuits as Capgras and Cotard's. You've all heard of the phrase, playing possum. An opossum when chased by a predator suddenly loses all muscle tone and plays dead. Why? This is because any movement by the possum will encourage the predatory behaviour of the carnivore - and carnivores also avoid dead infected food. So playing dead is very adaptive for the possum.

Following the lead of Martin Roth and Sierra and Berrios, I suggested Derealisation and Depersonalisation and other dissociative states are an example of playing possum in the emotional realm. And I'll explain. It's an evolutionary adaptive mechanism. Remember the story of Livingstone being mauled by a lion..........."


Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your reply Dreamer

I will have a look at the link you posted. About a year ago I read a book entitled "SACRED PAIN" by Ariel Gluck I believe was the authors name. It dealt with the way pain transforms us in so many ways and how some people are able to inflict pain upon their bodies voluntarily to produce "altered states of conciousness" saints and mystics of all religious traditions are examples of this. He talks about nerves signals and how too much moves us one way and not enough moves us in another, in either case capable of producing a profound efffect upon our awareness of self and the world. He mentioned DR Ramachandra (based in San Diego as i recall) and his cutting edge research at the time particulalry in regards to the causes and experience of phantom pain. Such as one experienceing pain where a limb used to be that was amputated from the body many years ago but still seems to be sending pain signals to the brain. Since there are no nerves in the limb to transmit the pain why does the brain experience this phantom limb pain? It has something to do with neural signatures and other esoteric phenomena. I agree it is a fascinating study and a few months ago I too thought it could very well explain my transient DP condition as I experience DP generally takes on the form of a sort of disintergration of my sense of the integrity of my physical body. As though my body is breaking apart into disjointed pieces. Like arms and legs becoming disconnected from my body etc. rather than a disintergration of my mind. I think you mentioned this as one of your most troubling systems as well in the past.

But I have noticed that when I am under the influence of a strong emotional feeling I don't think I have ever felt depersonalised. Even when severely depressed which I seldom do. But I will take a look at the link because I do find such subject matter very interesting and as you stated we are all unique individuals so the cause of our DP may spring up from an array of different sources. I have stated in the past that i believe my attacks of DP are primarily a result of "developmental structural inadequacies" in the bonding stage of early childhood, but that doesn't mean there may not be other factors at play at varying degrees. But for me personally I believe it is primarily connected with my feelings and emotions rather than a result of physical causes.

Welcome back to the forum BTW Dreamer I missed you and your often interesting posts. Did you gain any new insights during your short sabattical (SP?) away from here that you would like to share with us. I am happy you found a treatment protocal you feel positive about. You have certainly paid your share of dues.

Respectfully yours

· Registered
290 Posts
I personally think that depersonalization is a little bit physical and emotional. Our mind and our body go hand in hand, if something is not quite right with the mind then I believe it shows in the body and if something is not quite right in the body then it effects the mind.

Sleep loss is something that I believe contributes to dp/dr. We need adequate sleep to feel well. If the body and mind are tired then the feelings of dp/dr will get worse.

Nutrition we need to eat properly and if we do not the result can be feeling the effects of dp/dr.

We need to be able to feel real feelings. Happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, contentness, all these emtions are important and it is possible to suffer dp/dr if we do not let ourselves feel. Holding in feelings can make you sick.

Exercise is important for our body and our minds.

We need balance in our lives, all these things are important and we need to have them to be healthy in our body and our mind. They go hand in hand. I do believe that depersonalization is definately a medical problem and I also believe it can cause problems to your mind if you do not take good care of yourself.


· Registered
1,237 Posts
I studied Biology at university for 4 years, including getting an honours degree, and when I finished I finally took a step back and realised that the way science works is to completely ignore the emotional/spiritual side of the human experience. Like you said, it takes everything apart and objectifies it.

When in reality there is no object without subjective observer - there is no mind-body split. In my case its becoming clearer that somewhere along the way (or over a long time) my emotional and intellectual world split from each other, the former being left behind while the latter developed into a lifeless shell.

So basically what I'm saying is that yeah, DP is definately an emotional/psychological condition. I can't speak for biologically or drug induced DP/DR though, since I know nothing about it.

· Registered
46 Posts
My thinking is that DP starts off as an anxiety thing (which you could also be predisposed to due to brain chemistry factors) but then after a while your brain 'learns' DP and it changes the chemistry of the brain. Then even when the original anxiety recedes you are still left with the DP. Eventually the DP can recede (as it did with me) but then when you get into another anxiety-provoking situation your brain 'remembers' your DP and it comes back - in my case worse than ever.

Does this sound plausible?

1 - 9 of 9 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.