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Depersonalization disorder is a mental disorder characterized by the following:
- An individual's recurring feelings of derealization
- An altered perception of the external world
- Depersonalization, which is a detached sense of self.
Many people suffering from depersonalization disorder feel as if they are watching themselves in a film, or have out-of-body experiences. The end result of this state can be depression, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, or self-harm.
The exact causes of depersonalization disorder remain unknown. Many believe that childhood trauma is significant in later cases. More often than not, it is triggered by stress, a major depressive disorder, or the ingestion of a hallucinogen. Cannabis use can occasionally lead to the dissociative states of depersonalization or derealization, and significant usage among adolescents may trigger depersonalization disorder.
Diagnosis is generally the result of self-reported experiences within clinical assessment. Treatment options are often limited, as the psychiatric field is not set on either a specific course of treatment or pharmacological intervention. Neither antidepressants nor antipsychotics have proven effective in treating depersonalization disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy allows individuals to recast their experiences in a non-threatening way. Newer studies have examined the benefits of meditation on depersonalization, especially as means of reducing anxiety.
A personality disorder, according to the book Abnormal Psychology by Dr. Ronald J. Comer, is "an inflexible pattern of inner experience and outward behavior that differs markedly from social norms and leads to distress or impairment." Apart from this formally clinical definition, the real people who are dealing with these personality disorders would probably describe their pain as more than distress or impairment. There are three main categories of personality disorders: Odd personality disorders that include paranoia, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorder; Dramatic personality disorders that include antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorder; and Anxious personality disorders that include avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. In order to better describe some of these disorders outside of their clinical setting in a more concrete world, it will be helpful to find fictional characters who may fit these descriptions. While not entirely real, fictional characters give the opportunity to dissect without the implicit moral questions that would arise from cases of actual human beings.