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Depersonalization or depersonalisation (sometimes abbreviated as DP) is medically recognized as the experience of feeling detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of, one's mental processes, body, or actions.[1][2][3] During this state, the affected person may feel like they are "on autopilot" and that the world is lacking in significance.[3][4] Individuals who experience depersonalization feel detached from aspects of the self, including feelings (e.g., "I know I have feelings but I don't feel them"),[5] thoughts (e.g., "My thoughts don't feel like my own")[6], and sensations (e.g., touch, hunger, thirst, libido).[2][7][8] This can be distressing to the user, who may become disoriented by the loss of a sense that their self is the origin of their thoughts and actions.

It is perfectly normal for people to slip into this state temporarily,[9] often without even realizing it. For example, many people often note that they enter a detached state of autopilot during stressful situations or when performing monotonous routine tasks such as driving.

It is worth noting that this state of mind is also commonly associated with and occurs alongside derealization. While depersonalization is the subjective experience of unreality in one's sense of self, derealization is the perception of unreality in the outside world.[2][4][7][8]

Depersonalization is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as anxiety,[2][5] depression,[5] time distortion,[6] and derealization.[7][10] It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of dissociative compounds, such as ketamine,[9] PCP,[11][12] and DXM. However, it can also occur under the influence of cannabis,[9][10][13] psychedelics,[9] and to a lesser extent during the withdrawal symptoms of depressants[14][15] and SSRI's[9].


In psychiatry, chronic depersonalization that arises during sobriety is identified as "Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder" and is classified by the DSM5 as a dissociative disorder.[7]

Temporary depersonalization/derealization symptoms lasting hours to days are common in the general population. Approximately one-half of all adults have experienced at least one episode of this effect within their lifetime, and the gender ratio for the disorder is 1:1.[7] Chronic depersonalization is more common within individuals who have experienced severe trauma or prolonged stress and anxiety. The symptoms of both chronic derealization and depersonalization are common within the general population, with a lifetime prevalence of up to 26-74% and 31–66% at the time of a traumatic event.[16]

Within the context of identity-altering effects, depersonalization can be considered as being at the opposite end of the identity spectrum relative to states of unity and interconnectedness. This is because, during depersonalization, a person senses and attributes their identity to nothing, giving a sense of having no self. However, during a state of unity and interconnectedness, one senses and attributes their identity to everything, giving a sense that the entirety of existence is their self.

Psychoactive substances

Compounds within our psychoactive substance index which may cause this effect include:

See also

External links


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.), 818-20. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Kolev, O. I., Georgieva-Zhostova, S. O., & Berthoz, A. (2014). Anxiety changes depersonalization and derealization symptoms in vestibular patients. Behavioural Neurology, 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sierra, M., Senior, C., Dalton, J., McDonough, M., Bond, A., Phillips, M. L., ... & David, A. S. (2002). Autonomic response in depersonalization disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59(9), 833-838.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Radovic, F., & Radovic, S. (2002). Feelings of unreality: A conceptual and phenomenological analysis of the language of depersonalization. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 9(3), 271-279.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Phillips, M. L., Medford, N., Senior, C., Bullmore, E. T., Suckling, J., Brammer, M. J., ... & David, A. S. (2001). Depersonalization disorder: thinking without feeling. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 108(3), 145-160.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Melges, F. T., Tinklenberg, J. R., Hollister, L. E., & Gillespie, H. K. (1970). Temporal disintegration and depersonalization during marihuana intoxication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 23(3), 204-210.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.), 302-306. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sierra, M., Baker, D., Medford, N., & David, A. S. (2005). Unpacking the depersonalization syndrome: an exploratory factor analysis on the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale. Psychological medicine, 35(10), 1523-1532.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Stein, D. J., & Simeon, D. (2009). Cognitive-affective neuroscience of depersonalization. CNS spectrums, 14(9), 467-471.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Mathew, R. J., Wilson, W. H., Humphreys, D., Lowe, J. V., & Weithe, K. E. (1993). Depersonalization after marijuana smoking. Biological Psychiatry, 33(6), 431-441.
  11. Erard, R., Luisada, P. V., & Peele, R. (1980). The PCP psychosis: prolonged intoxication or drug-precipitated functional illness?. Journal of psychedelic drugs, 12(3-4), 235-251.
  12. Pradhan, S. N. (1984). Phencyclidine (PCP): some human studies. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 8(4), 493-501.
  13. Mathew, R. J., Wilson, W. H., Chiu, N. Y., Turkington, T. G., DeGrado, T. R., & Coleman, R. E. (1999). Regional cerebral blood flow and depersonalization after tetrahydrocannabinol adrninistration. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 100(1), 67-75.
  14. Roy-Byrne, P. P., & Hommer, D. (1988). Benzodiazepine withdrawal: overview and implications for the treatment of anxiety. The American journal of medicine, 84(6), 1041-1052.
  15. Duncan, J. (1988). Neuropsychiatric aspects of sedative drug withdrawal. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 3(3), 171-180.
  16. Hunter, E. C., Sierra, M., & David, A. S. (2004). The epidemiology of depersonalisation and derealisation. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 39(1), 9-18.