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Depersonalization disorder (DPD) is a psychiatric condition in which a person has a distorted perception of reality or perceives things and/or persons differently than they actually are. Unlike schizophrenic patients, these persons are aware that something in their perception is going wrong.

Symptoms of this disorder can be very debilitating and can prevent persons from performing normal daily activities. A lot of interference of DPD symptoms with symptoms of other disorders can make this condition difficult to recognize and treat. Here we discuss some of the main difficulties these persons may experience, as well as treatment options.

Symptoms Of DPD

Symptoms of DPD usually occur in episodes, although in some cases they can last intermittently for a longer period of time. Patients often describe their feeling of perception as being shifted or displaced outside of themselves. They often feel like outside observers of their own lives and actions. Sometimes, only certain parts of the body can appear unreal, like they are in someone else's possession. A person can feel like not being in control of their own movements and even speech. Physical symptoms can also be present, like pressure around the head and different types of headache. In severe cases, body parts can seem disproportional (for example, one arm or leg falsely perceived as being longer than the other). Senses can be either heightened or lowered. Memorizing things is usually not significantly disturbed, but some old memories can become unrelated with emotions or matched with wrong emotional response when brought into the consciousness. For example, a person may relate a memory of their child's birth to an unpleasant feeling, rather than to a joyful and happy experience.

Depersonalization is often joined with symptoms of derealization, such as distorted perception of time, blurry vision, emotional problems, and disturbance in relationships with family members or close friends due to distorted feelings.

Diagnosis

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is necessary to contact your physician first, and then a trained psychiatrist who will use established diagnostic criteria in order to properly classify your disorder. It is absolutely necessary not to hide any symptoms and experiences from your doctor, as they can crucially affect the diagnosis making process. Answer to all the questions as honestly as you can, and try to explain properly everything that you are experiencing. It is not a bad idea to even write down your unusual experiences and then present them to your doctor.

Treatment

Treatment of DPD includes both cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is designed to help you realize the causes of your problem and how to recognize and control the symptoms. Unfortunately, pharmacological treatment designed specifically for DPD does not exist, but it has been shown that some antidepressants and anxiolytics can have beneficial effects.

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