Derealization Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Derealization Disorder is a unique and complex mental health condition that involves feeling detached from one’s surroundings, leading to a sense of unreality or disconnection from the world. Individuals experiencing derealization may find it challenging to perceive their environment as genuine, and this can significantly impact their daily life and well-being. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for Derealization Disorder, shedding light on this often-misunderstood condition.

Understanding Derealization Disorder

What is Derealization Disorder?

Derealization Disorder is classified as a dissociative disorder, a group of conditions that affect an individual’s sense of self and reality. People with Derealization Disorder often describe feeling as though they are in a dream or observing the world from a distance. These episodes of detachment can be distressing and interfere with personal and professional relationships.

The Nature of Derealization

During derealization episodes, individuals may perceive their surroundings as foggy, unreal, or distorted. They might feel disconnected from their own body or emotions, leading to a sense of emotional numbness. These feelings can vary in intensity and duration, ranging from fleeting moments to more prolonged experiences.

Symptoms of Derealization Disorder

1. Feelings of Unreality

The primary symptom of Derealization Disorder is an overwhelming sensation of unreality. Individuals may struggle to feel fully engaged with the world around them, making everyday experiences seem surreal.

2. Emotional Numbness

People with Derealization Disorder often report feeling emotionally numb or detached from their own feelings and emotions.

3. Distorted Perception

The perception of one’s environment may be altered, leading to visual or spatial distortions. Objects may seem larger or smaller than they are, and colors may appear muted or overly vibrant.

4. Persistent Episodes

Derealization episodes can occur frequently or sporadically, lasting for a few minutes or even months in severe cases.

Causes of Derealization Disorder

The exact causes of Derealization Disorder are not fully understood, but several factors may contribute to its development.

1. Trauma and Stress

Experiencing traumatic events or prolonged stress can trigger dissociative symptoms, including derealization. The mind may use this coping mechanism to protect itself from overwhelming emotions.

2. Anxiety and Depression

Derealization episodes are often associated with anxiety disorders and depression. The emotional strain from these conditions may lead to a detachment from reality as a defense mechanism.

3. Substance Abuse

Certain drugs and substances, especially hallucinogens, can induce feelings of derealization. In some cases, prolonged substance abuse may lead to the development of Derealization Disorder.

Diagnosis of Derealization Disorder

Diagnosing Derealization Disorder can be challenging, as the symptoms are subjective and may overlap with other mental health conditions. A comprehensive evaluation is necessary to rule out other potential causes.

1. Clinical Interviews

A mental health professional will conduct a detailed clinical interview to gather information about the individual’s symptoms, medical history, and any triggering events.

2. Assessment Tools

Standardized assessment tools may be used to measure the severity of derealization symptoms and assess their impact on the individual’s life.

3. Differential Diagnosis

The clinician will consider other disorders with similar symptoms, such as depersonalization disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or certain neurological conditions.

Treatment Options for Derealization Disorder

1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), can be beneficial in treating Derealization Disorder. Therapists help individuals understand and manage their dissociative experiences and develop coping strategies.

2. Medication

While there is no specific medication for Derealization Disorder, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed if underlying conditions like anxiety or depression coexist.

3. Stress Management

Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and relaxation exercises, can help individuals better manage triggers and reduce the frequency of derealization episodes.


Derealization Disorder is a complex dissociative condition that affects an individual’s perception of reality, leading to feelings of detachment and unreality. Understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for this disorder is essential in providing appropriate support and care to those experiencing derealization episodes. With proper intervention and support, individuals with Derealization Disorder can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.


Is Derealization Disorder a common condition?

Derealization Disorder is relatively rare, but its prevalence may be underestimated due to difficulties in diagnosis.

Can Derealization Disorder be completely cured?

Complete remission is possible with appropriate treatment, although some individuals may experience occasional relapses.

Can Derealization Disorder affect children and adolescents?

Yes, Derealization Disorder can affect individuals of any age, including children and adolescents.

Are there any self-help strategies for managing derealization episodes?

While self-help strategies can complement professional treatment, it is crucial to consult a mental health expert for comprehensive guidance.

Can stress exacerbate Derealization Disorder symptoms?

Yes, stress and emotional distress can trigger or worsen derealization episodes in individuals with Derealization Disorder.


  1. Medical Journals and Research Papers: Access reputable medical journals and research databases to find scholarly articles and studies related to Derealization Disorder. Websites like PubMed, Google Scholar, or PsychINFO can be valuable sources for academic research.
  2. Mental Health Organizations and Institutes: Look for information from reputable mental health organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the American Psychiatric Association (APA). These organizations often publish guidelines and resources on various mental health conditions, including Derealization Disorder.
  3. Books and Ebooks: Explore books written by experts in the field of psychiatry and psychology that cover Derealization Disorder. Libraries, online bookstores, or academic publishers can be excellent sources for in-depth information.
  4. Academic Institutions and Universities: Many universities and academic institutions publish research papers, theses, and dissertations related to mental health disorders. University websites and online repositories often provide access to valuable research.
  5. Healthcare Websites: Reputable healthcare websites like Mayo Clinic, WebMD, or the World Health Organization (WHO) may offer informative articles and resources on Derealization Disorder and its treatment options.

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