Faculty Articles

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: Theory, Treatment, and Advocacy

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Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder (DPDD) is identified as a dissociative disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Revision (DSM-5) and a neurotic disorder in the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). Although a consistent definition has been accepted by the psychology community since the late 1800’s, the disorder is still misunderstood and understudied, potentially because of the difficulty of non-sufferers to conceptualize the pathology and difficulty for individuals with these traits to verbalize their experiences. Depersonalization is defined in the DSM-5 as “longstanding or recurring feelings of being detached from one's mental processes or body, as if one is observing themselves from the outside or in a dream,” and derealization as “the longstanding or recurring feeling of the external world of the individual being unreal”. Available data suggest the prevalence of DPDD is between 1.7 to 2.4% of the general population (Hunter et al., 2004), and prevalence studies have indicated that between 40 to 80% of psychiatric inpatients suffer from comorbid secondary depersonalization (Brauer et al., 1970; Hunter at al., 2005; Hunter et al., 2004).