Are You Suffering From “Depersonalization Disorder?”
Many people complain of feeling as though they are in a fog, unable to concentrate and having the experience as if they had momentarily tuned out everything and everyone around them. It’s almost as if they are temporarily disconnected from themselves. Sometimes it’s a sense of perceiving oneself from a distance or from above. In all cases, it’s a feeling of detachment from, and being an outside observer of, one’s body and oneself. The feeling is like being in a dream or being a robot. Feelings of numbness in the head or other body parts are also common. These feelings are often accompanied with dizziness. People with the above listed symptoms may be suffering from what mental health professionals call “depersonalization disorder.”
Depersonalization disorder is often accompanied with feelings of depression and anxiety. This disorder can first appear in one’s teenaged years, and if not treated can continue into adulthood. It is twice as common among women as in men. Many psychotherapists believe the disorder most often appears with the emergence of aggressive feelings and feelings of anger and rage. The symptoms can appear whenever a compliant or good-natured person is conflicted between a strong need or desire to be in a relationship with another person while at the same time having angry or aggressive feelings toward that person. Because the aggressive feelings are disapproved of, they are denied and held inward, and affect the person in the form of the symptoms described above. I believe we see the disorder more frequently in women because of our culture’s longstanding taboo on women expressing aggressive feelings. We have often heard the cliché that it is unladylike for women to be aggressive or angry. Men are less likely to suffer from depersonalization disorder because they are encouraged to be aggressive and macho.
Feelings cannot be denied, ignored or forgotten. If feelings are not known, expressed, explored or in some way dealt with, they can adversely affect our body and our mind. Depersonalization disorder is just one example of the effect of trying to cut off or deny feelings in ourselves. Because the person suffering is unaware of his cut off feelings, psychoanalytic psychotherapy is the treatment of choice. Such therapy has its primary focus the uncovering of hidden feelings and the compassionate understanding of oneself.
Prepared as a public service from the office of Psychotherapist Michael Feld, L.C. S.W. (718) 444-8560.