Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Mental Health and Depersonalization Disorder

Depersonalization disorder is marked by periods of feeling disconnected or detached from one's body and thoughts (depersonalization). The disorder is sometimes described as feeling like you are observing yourself from outside your body or like being in a dream. However, people with this disorder do not lose contact with reality; they realize that things are not as they appear. An episode of depersonalization can last anywhere from a few minutes to many years. Depersonalization also might be a symptom of other disorders, including some forms of substance abuse, certain personality disorders, seizure disorders, and certain other brain diseases.

Depersonalization disorder is one of a group of conditions called dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders are mental illnesses that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, consciousness, awareness, identity, and/or perception. When one or more of these functions is disrupted, symptoms can result. These symptoms can interfere with a person's general functioning, including social and work activities and relationships.

Recommended Related to Mental Health

School Shootings: The Columbine Generation Copes

Once again, school shootings are in the headlines. And in recent years, those headlines have become all too familiar to students. "It's affected the generation dramatically," Marjorie Lindholm, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo., tells WebMD. "If you notice the pattern of the school shootings, they were high schools and now it's moving into colleges, which kind of means it's following the age group." Lindholm was in a classroom where a wounded...

Read the School Shootings: The Columbine Generation Copes article > >

What Are the Symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder?

The primary symptom of depersonalization disorder is a distorted perception of the body. The person might feel like he or she is a robot or in a dream. Some people might fear they are going crazy and might become depressed, anxious, or panicky. For some people, the symptoms are mild and last for just a short time. For others, however, symptoms can be chronic (ongoing) and last or recur for many years, leading to problems with daily functioning or even to disability.

What Causes Depersonalization Disorder?

Little is known about the causes of depersonalization disorder, but biological and environmental factors might play a role. Like other dissociative disorders, depersonalization disorder often is triggered by intense stress or a traumatic event -- such as war, abuse, accidents, disasters, or extreme violence -- that the person has experienced or witnessed.

How Common Is Depersonalization Disorder?

Depersonalization is a common symptom of many psychiatric disorders and often occurs in dangerous situations, such as assaults, accidents, or serious illnesses. Depersonalization as a separate disorder is quite rare.

How Is Depersonalization Disorder Diagnosed?

If symptoms of depersonalization disorder are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose dissociative disorders, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests, such as imaging studies and blood tests, to rule out physical illness or medication side effects as the cause of the symptoms.

If no physical illness is found, the person might be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, health care professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for a dissociative disorder.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections