Do you or someone you know express feeling like their life is not their own? As if their essence is detached from their body and the events happening around them feels like a dream? Some people may have these feelings briefly while others express this as a persistent or a frequent recurring state. In the latter, the diagnosis is depersonalization-derealization syndrome (DDS) which can create a feeling of loneliness, isolation, and frustration.


  • Feeling disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, and body (depersonalization)
  • Feeling disconnected from your surroundings (derealization)
  • Feeling Robot-like or that those around you are robotic
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling like you’re observing yourself from outside your body
  • Feeling like you’re living in a dream world
  • Feeling sad or anxious

You may experience depersonalization, derealization, or both. Understand that your perceptions aren’t real and having others make you feel unsettled can be frustrating and cause anxiety. When people report temporarily feeling this was it has been shown to follow taking certain drugs (marijuana, hallucinogens, ketamine, MMA), becoming very tired, sleep/sensory deprivation, or experiencing life-threatening danger. Other situations that can cause a person to experience this disconnected feeling are medical in nature such as seizure disorders. Although there are several reasons to experience temporary disconnectedness, this does not mean a person has the disorder as these things do not cause DDS. The feeling must occur on its own, be persistent or be recurring, makes it difficult to function in daily life, and most likely began during early or middle childhood. (It rarely begins after age 40)

Although there has not been a clear cause, it’s often linked to:

  • Physical abuse
  • Long-Term mental, emotional, and/or sexual abuse
  • Domestic violence (witnessing or experiencing it)
  • Accidents or natural disasters
  • Life-threatening danger
  • The sudden death of a loved one
  • A parent with severe mental illness
  • Drug and Alcohol abuse

People often have a hard time describing their symptoms and may fear they are going crazy. However, people always remain aware that their experiences of detachment are not real but rather are just the way that they feel. Breathe a sigh of relief and know you will be okay because this awareness is what separates DP/DR from a psychotic disorder. People with a psychotic disorder do not have this awareness.

Studies have been done on DDS and identified emotional numbing and loss of emotional reactivity as its core feature along with a person having great difficulty in identifying their own feelings. Some of these studies also show a low skin electrical conductance response to unpleasant stimuli that would normally give rise to a response which suggests that suppression of emotional processing results from abnormalities in functioning of the autonomic nervous system.

Treatment is usually long, requiring numerous sessions with a therapist, but there are multiple techniques that can help.

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Processing (EMDR)
  • Mindfulness Training
  • Psychotherapy/Talk Therapy
  • Energy Therapies: Grounding Techniques, Reiki, Breathwork, etc.

The good news is complete recovery is possible and simply reading this article or being diagnosed is enough to relieve anxiety.  If you are ready to start your healing process, feel free to reach out via and submit your request for consultation.