Depersonalization Disorder and Addiction Treatment

Depersonalization Disorder (DPD) is a painful and disorienting dissociative disorder characterized by disconnection or detachment from one’s body, thoughts, and emotions. Many people describe depersonalization as viewing themselves from outside their body, feeling as if they are watching themselves in a movie, or living inside a dream. These experiences can be deeply disturbing for both the person suffering from the condition as well as for their loved ones, particularly when DPD is accompanied by addiction.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance addiction and co-occurring Depersonalization Disorder, we encourage you to contact us with any questions.

Disconnection and Disorientation

Many people experience brief, non-pathological depersonalization at some point in their lives; for example, fleeting feelings of you observing yourself in a dream can be triggered by exhaustion. When those experiences become recurrent, persistent, and affect your ability to function, however, they are considered symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder, a mental health condition affecting about 2% of the population.

Depersonalization can be a frightening experience that profoundly impacts your relationship with yourself and the world around you. While the disorder is marked by sensory and cognitive disturbances that sever your sense of self and connection to your body, these disturbances do not indicate a loss of contact with reality; you are acutely aware that your perception is distorted and that what you are experiencing is not real. The awareness of your disconnection can be extraordinarily distressing and you may worry that you are going crazy, resulting in depression, anxiety, or panic.

The causes of DPD largely remain a mystery, but are believed to involve both biological and environmental factors. Many people with this condition share a history of trauma, such as abuse, violence, war, or natural disasters, and some experts believe that depersonalization emerges as a maladaptive response to overwhelming distress as the brain attempts to cope with traumatic experiences.

Depersonalization Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of DPD may vary from person to person, in both kind and duration. For some, symptoms are brief, lasting only moments, while for others they last for years at a time.

  • Feeling as if you are observing your thoughts, feelings, and body from outside of yourself
  • Having a sense that your body or parts of your body are distorted, shrunken, or enlarged
  • Experiencing sensory distortions, such as feeling that your head is filled with cotton
  • Having a sense that your memories are not your own or lack emotional depth
  • Feeling an impaired sense of agency and control over your body, speech, and thoughts

Although episodes of depersonalization often have no overt, visible symptoms and often go unnoticed by those around you, they can be overwhelming and deeply distressing experiences that cause you to call into question your connection with yourself, the world around you, and even reality itself.

Depersonalization Disorder and Addiction

Depersonalization Disorder and drug addiction have a complex relationship that may vary from person to person. The emotional pain, fear, and numbness associated with depersonalization cause some people to turn to substance abuse in an attempt to cope with their distress and escape psychological turmoil. Others begin experiencing depersonalization after prolonged substance abuse or find that drug use aggravates symptoms of DPD. The reciprocal relationship between depersonalization and addiction can intensify each disorder and create unique treatment needs for people seeking recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Symptoms of depersonalization can arise from a number of mental health disorders as well as neurological and physical conditions. As such, it is critical to rule out other conditions before a diagnosis of DPD is made, and to work with a psychiatrist with the expertise and experience toachieve diagnostic clarity. Because people’s experiences of DPD can vary widely in kind and severity, treatment must be tailored to the needs of each individual person to address their unique situation and take into account any co-occurring disorders.

If you are struggling with substance addiction and Depersonalization Disorder, seeking dual diagnosis treatment that allows you to heal from both conditions simultaneously is vital to achieving lasting remission from symptoms and establishing emotional and behavioral stability. The most effective dual diagnosis treatment typically includes a combination of:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapies
  • 12-step support groups

While there is no pharmacological therapy specifically for DPD, mood and anxiety symptoms may be treated with medication to facilitate healing and enhance your ability to engage in other treatment modalities. If your depersonalization symptoms arose from a history of trauma, specialized trauma-focused therapies can help you process and resolve these experiences in a healthy and safe way.

Incorporating personalized addiction treatment components within the spectrum of care allows you to more fully understand the relationship between your DPD and substance abuse and facilitate concurrent healing from both conditions. Comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment gives you both the insight and the concrete tools you need to replace maladaptive and self-destructive behaviors with healthy, positive alternatives while also alleviating the distress substances helped you escape. With the support of compassionate, experienced clinicians, you can restore your sense of self, find relief from psychological suffering, and begin to unlock your true potential free from the pain of Depersonalization Disorder and addiction.

If you would like more information about substance addiction and DPD, or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer support and guidance to help you begin your journey towards recovery and renewed wellness.