Causes of Depersonalization and Derealization
Causes and mechanism of depersonalization and derealization
- Trauma that dislocates you
- Mechanism of the trauma
- Underlying vulnerability (right column)
- Results of DP/DR
- Mechanisms that maintain DP/DR.
Trauma that luxates you from normal life
The starting point of depersonalization is most often a 1 .) a bad trip, 2) clear traumatic incident, 3.) an overload of stress or panic, or 4.) medication problem, like going cold turkey, or getting a serotin syndrome due to bad mix of medication. Luxation means dislocation. Trauma in psychotherapy means this is life-threatening, (or sanity threatening) and you will probably think to yourself: I can't handle this, or other words that mean the same message. I often talk about DP/DR being a processing glitch. You get stuck in a dissociated state, as far away form feelings and emotions as possible.
Mechanism of the starting trauma
The mechanism of the trauma itself is usually the same, irregardless if the DP/DR started from a bad trip (weed, XTC, etc) a trauma, a burn-out, panic attacks, medicine poisoning, depression, etc.
Real chronic depersonalization, derealization and dissociation are a survival mechanism that occurs what you feel a threat to life/sanity. We usually talk about extreme fears and trauma, PTSD. Burnout and depression can also be experienced as unbearable, and therefore cause DP/DR/dissociation. Certain types of stress can also cause DP/DR.
When fight, flight, and freezing don't work sufficiently, you also have denial, suppression, avoidance, forgetting, downplaying/trivializing to try to deal with a stressor. If the feelings that arise are unbearable and last too long, you will be damaged. An important example is when you unwittingly eat space cake. You are in a trip and cannot shut it off. The desire to flee is too strong, so people start to dissociate the connection between body and mind. You estrange part of yourself from yourself to be able to bear it.
10 results of having Depersonalization
Results of depersonalization/derealization
Finding yourself in a dissociated state feels physically unpleasant and makes people fearful. We react to depersonalization. We tend to panic (fear of dying) of develop the fear of losing our minds, going crazy, or experience a loss of control. When the fear of DP/DR and a resistance to this estranged feeling develops, we tend to enter a vicious circle of fear of DP to DP and back to the fear.
Some develop a panic disorder out of the DP/DR. Others end up being burned out from fighting the DP/DR, others even get depressed. This is a secondary depression, and doctors/psychiatrists trying to focus on your depression and cure it never manage to relieve the DP/DR.
The distance and blocking the feelings can make you even more emotionally flat. This flattening is often confused with depression. Normally with DP, there is no real somberness or worthless or useless feeling that often characterize DP/DR.
Mechanisms that maintain Depersonalization and Derealization
When you have depersonalization and derealization, you tend to want to control of the contents of your feelings and emotions. This desire to control how you feel, tends to make you create a series of rules regarding behavior, it can make you obsess (OCD). This desire to have control causes a lot of stress, and this stress tends to cause the DP/DR to stay stuck.
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Two Deeper causes
- Giovanni Lotto - attachment disorder
Scientific research: Daphne Simeon, Benedetto Farina and Giovanni Liotto (Italian psychiatrist) have researched the cause of depersonalization and derealization disorder. There is an increasing amount of research pointing to that there is an underlying vulnerability to depersonalzation with people who have a particular type of attachment disorder in their early childhood, named: disorganized attachment. During very early childhood, children seek and need safety and security from their mother. This drives their need for attachment. There a number of attachment styles, and disorganized attachment is the one that is the problem. When you have an unsafe or absent mother, or a depressed mother, or a mother with borderline personality disorder, this can occur. If the attachement style issue is at the core of your DP/DR, this does need to be addressed in therapy (and fixed).
- Double bind: Bateson
When a person hears conflicting messages as a child, they get caught in a double bind -- a situation in which no matter what a person does, he "can't win". The dilemma causes you to be trapped in conflicting demands. This, with not being allowed to communicate about communication, can get you very stuck. Watzlawick has described four variations, I'm going to name 3.
1. person is chastised for a correct perception - child who is raised in a violent household but is expected to see his parents as loving and peaceful.
2. expected to have feelings other than those he actually experiences. Result: feeling guilty when he or she cannot achieve the "proper" feelings.
3. when we demand and prohibit at the same time.
Double bind prevents the building of a solid core of the personality, it creates a weakness at the core.
Sources: Batson, Watzlawick,
An interesting aside, is that Dr. Clancy McKenzie, an American psychiatrist who wrote Babies Need Mothers, also says that a trauma in the very first years is the cause of vulnerability to schizophrenia. McKenzie refers to the trauma that happens a lot in the US, the mother has a C-section birth and is away for a week. During this time, the child previous child experiences the trauma of being alone - the absence of his mother.
I have been asking my clients about a vulnerability in early childhood, mostly via their parents. A lot of parents have confirmed and described the vulnerabilities in early childhood to me. This vulnerability seems to affect some aspect of life that people have a real hard time dealing with. As a result, the ego tries to create rules and recipes. Rules of do's and don'ts, and recipes to achieve happiness.
If there have been traumas or other vulnerabilities in early childhood, we do need to address them.
List of the top causes of depersonalization
- Recreational Drugs. Weed, XTC, Ketamine.
- Psychological trauma, PTSD. Mostly unexpected and rapid loss and grief.
- Extreme stress, comes up mostly with women studying.
- Panic attacks and hyperventilation.
- Withdrawal and stopping with medication too fast.
- Serotonin Syndrome from interactions between medications and liver enzymes.
- Computers, TV, and smartphones.
- Virtual Reality games.