Understanding Dissociative Disorders

In my novel DETACHED - Dr. Jason Smith has a number of "out of body" experiences in which he floats above himself as a means of relieving his stress.  

Have you ever had an out of body experience?

Do you live with someone who frequently seems detached from the moment?  Then chances are you or your loved one may be dealing with a Detachment disorder, otherwise known as Depersonalization Disorder.

You might describe this as feeling like you are outside of your body, perhaps in a dream-like state, sometimes even watching yourself perform certain activities, like sleeping or walking or even having conversations with others. During these episodes perceptions are altered and the person can feel like they are living out a dream, while at the same time they are in touch with reality. These episodes can last seconds, to hour or even longer. Living with this disorder can affect social and work activities and a person’s ability to maintain relationships.

What does it mean to be Detached from your body?

Depersonalization disorder is categorized as a mental illness under a group of conditions known as dissociative disorders, however this disorder may be a symptom of other illnesses.  Some forms of substance abuse can cause personality changes, including detachment disorder. In addition, people with other brain diseases or seizure disorders can experience detachment. 

People with this condition may feel they are losing touch with reality and going “crazy”. Others live in a constant state of depression or anxiety or months or years. And in some cases, it can lead to permanent disability.

What are the triggers?

While the experts are not able to pinpoint a specific cause, a pattern emerges from those who suffer with this condition.  Many who suffer from these symptoms have experienced severe trauma in the past, such as natural disasters or exposure to extreme violence.

How do you know if you have this condition?

Depersonalization or Detachment disorder is considered rare. However, it can be diagnosed, first by having a physician perform a complete screening, including your medical history, the performing a physical to rule out any other illnesses, and then finally brain imagining to determine any other organic causes.  If all the tests come back negative, the Physician will likely refer the you to a Psychiatrist for additional screening.

What if you have it? Can it be treated?

 Yes.  There is treatment. Cognitive and behavioral therapy, talk therapy and medication are key to treating this condition.  In many cases, after working through the potential causes, the condition goes away completely.