Depersonalization VS Derealization – What’s the Difference?

This article is for informative purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you are struggling, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional.

Depersonalization and derealization are both scary experiences that can appear similar to one another. Feeling out of touch with yourself or the world can be incredibly difficult and make it harder to complete tasks. To better understand the differences between depersonalization and derealization, in this article, we’ll be comparing the two.

Depersonalization: 

Depersonalization is described as an experience where you feel detached from yourself. You may feel like you’re in a dream or that you’re not real. You also may feel floaty and numb to the world around you (Mayo Clinic 2017). Other signs include:

  • Seeing objects as distorted; either larger or smaller than they actually are, especially your own body parts
  • Lack of emotional connection to your memories
  • Loss of control with your physical movement
  • Anxiety and a panicked feeling

(Sources: Mayo Clinic 2017, The DP Manual 2021)

Depersonalization as a whole deals with detachment from your person and effects how you view yourself in your surroundings.

Derealization

Derealization is an experience where you feel detached from your surroundings. You may feel that your environment is not real and is dreamlike. You may also feel that reality is fake or that you’re living in a movie (WebMD 2019). Other signs include:

  • Feeling foggy
  • You’re viewing the world from “the outside”
  • Everything feels off, including sounds and what you see
  • Time is warped

(Sources: WebMD 2019, Cleveland Clinic 2020)

Derealization can make the world around you feel foreign and that you’re losing your mind.

How Are They Similar?

In general, people will experience elements of both derealization and depersonalization at the same time (The DP Manual 2021). However, some may experience detachment from themself whereas another person will feel more detached from their surroundings. They both involve feeling detached and a sense of falseness or dreaminess. Both can make it difficult to process your surroundings and disrupt your ability to function. Both tend to develop in the later teen years to early adulthood and can happen alongside other mental health conditions (Mayo Clinic 2019). Approximately 2% of the population are diagnosed with a depersonalization-derealization disorder (WebMD 2020). 

How Are They Different?

Depersonalization relates more to feeling detached from yourself whereas derealization relates to feeling detached from your surroundings. With depersonalization, you may feel that you are disconnected from yourself but your surroundings stay relatively the same. Derealization, on the other hand, may make your surroundings feel off rather than yourself. While they both have similar effects, the areas that they focus on are different (The DP Manual 2021).

Getting Help

While many people will experience elements of depersonalization, derealization, or both, it is not considered a problem until it starts to interfere with your ability to function. If you feel that your symptoms are interfering with your quality of life, you should reach out to a qualified mental health professional. Often times making an appointment with your primary care provider is the first step to get in contact with resources to help you along. Additionally websites like BetterHelp make accessibility to mental health providers easier.

Conclusion

While depersonalization and derealization are odd experiences, it is important to know that help is available. Getting in touch with the right professional can help you get back on track and change your life. What are your thoughts on this topic? What have been some of your experiences? Are there any more similarities and differences that you’ve noticed? Let us know in the comment section!

References:

  • Cleveland Clinic. (2020, October 15). Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: Symptoms & Treatment. my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9791-depersonalizationderealization-disorder
  • Mayo Clinic. (2017, May 16). Depersonalization-derealization disorder – Symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depersonalization-derealization-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352911
  • Spiegel, D. (2021, December 16). Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. Merck Manuals Consumer Version. www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/dissociative-disorders/depersonalization-derealization-disorder
  • The DP Manual. (2021, April 2). Depersonalization VS Derealization – What’s The Difference? Depersonalization Manual. www.dpmanual.com/articles/depersonalization-and-derealization-whats-the-difference/
  • WebMD. (2019, December 20). What Is Derealization? www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-derealization-overview

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