Book (p)Review: Depersonalization Disorder

I remember, at the funeral of a loved one, shaking hands, accepting hugs, saying “thank you” – when suddenly my brain gave way.  I couldn’t speak, couldn’t think, had forgotten how to respond to comfort.  It was the lowering of The Bell Jar, a glass wall between me and the rest of the world (including my husband and children), and lasted sporadically for about 8 months.

For me at that time, and at occasional stressful times since, depersonalization has descended.  I felt numb and separate. I felt no joy, no connection, and no interest.  For me it was a part of grief or depression – for others it can be a part of panic or anxiety disorder.  Some develop depersonalization as a result of trauma.  Most inexplicable are those instances in which depersonalization begins for no apparent reason, and stays for weeks, months, or years.

Common Symptoms

  • Derealization – feeling like you’re living in a dream or that everything is 2-dimensional
  • Detachment from surroundings – feeling indifferent to situations and people around you
  • Detachment from personal relationships – feeling emotionless towards others
  • Robotic – feeling like you are a robot, like your body isn’t your own
  • Body distortion – feeling like your body or parts are distorted (smaller or larger)
  • Fear of going crazy – having a phobia or constant fear of “going crazy” or “losing your mind”
  • Lack of sensation – lacking normal feelings of sensation and pain
  • Spontaneous OBEs – having spontaneous moments of “floating above one’s own body” and seeing oneself act without having control over one’s actions

Here is the American book: “Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder: A Mindfulness and Acceptance Guite to Conquering Feelings of Numbness and Unreality” by Katharine Donnelly & Fugen Neziroglu (2010)

Here is the British book: “Overcoming Depersonalization and Feelings of Unreality: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques” by Anthony David, Dawn Baker & Elaine Hunter (2013)

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Here’s my son Chris, with Matt and Landon in their band Coral Bones, and their first official music video.

Here’s another video that’s a little less formal.  Enjoy!

Because Chris has Bipolar I Disorder, the band decided to contribute all proceeds from the Queensway single to NAMI.  If you’re interested in more of Coral Bones’ music, check out their website here.

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Your Weekly Chuckle: Anger Management

angry birds


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Suicide Danger Scale

This scale can be helpful for a person who is having suicidal thoughts as a way for them (or family and friends) to judge how dangerous their suicidality is.  It can be used in conjunction with therapy.  One caveat is that a person can impulsively do something without really meaning it, and if the method is lethal enough, they can kill themselves “accidentally.”  All the studies I’ve read say that talking about it does not make the person more likely to do it.  Sometimes it’s hard for family and friends to know the difference between supportively talking about suicide, and badgering them too much.

10        I have a highly lethal method in my possession and I am determined to use it immediately to kill myself.  Nothing can stop me.

9          I have a lethal method in my possession or within my reach and I have decided when I’m going to do it.  Hardly anything or anyone could stop me.

8          I’ve decided to do it and I have a plan that will work.  Someone could possibly convince me not to, if they intervened at the right time.

7          I have thought through my plan in specific detail.  1) My method is either highly lethal (gun, jumping, hanging, car wreck) but I haven’t decided for sure yet to do it, or 2) My method is not always lethal (pills, cutting) but I’m pretty certain I’m going to do it.

6          I have pretty much decided on a plan, but I haven’t decided when exactly.  I’m more convinced that suicide is the only way out.

5          I’m beginning to think about specific ways to kill myself.  Right now my plan is either not very lethal—i.e. pills or cutting rather than a gun—or I’m not very determined to do it right away.

4          I’m further down the path toward suicide.  I have researched methods online, but haven’t decided on anything specific yet.  I’m still ambivalent.

3          I would really rather be dead.  I think about my own death a lot of the time.  I maybe will actually do it.

2          I often think vaguely suicidal thoughts like, “I wish I just wouldn’t wake up,” or “it would be such a relief if it were all over with,” but I would never actually kill myself.

1          I sometimes wish I didn’t have to deal with how hard life is.

0          I have no suicidal thoughts or feelings whatsoever.

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can’t… resist… cute Beatles… and Yoda…


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Toolkit: Mini Relaxation Techniques

Dealing effectively with an anxiety disorder requires a two-pronged approach.

First, we must develop a personalized daily routine for general anxiety reduction.  This should probably include enjoyable physical exercise (with stretches – yoga is a good option), good sleep hygiene, and a daily habit of meditation/mindfulness/relaxation.

But in addition, we all need a few brief techniques for dealing with escalating anxiety throughout the day.  These should take only 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and be fairly unobtrusive so that you’re not embarrassed to do them in a public setting.  Here are some of my favorites and suggestions from others.

  • A full-body stretch.  Take your time at it, breathe deeply, and relax.
  • Slow neck-rolls and/or shoulder shrugs.  May be a little harder to do in public, but OK for sitting at a desk.
  • The 3 deep breath technique.  Take deep, diaphramatic breaths and release them slowly, imagining the tension leaving your body with each exhalation. You could probably expand this to the 10 deep breath technique but do it slowly or you’ll end up hyperventilating.
  • The brief version of the Jacobsonian relaxation exercise.  Take a deep breath, tighten your right fist, and slowly relax your fist as you exhale.  Repeat with the left fist.  Shake out your hands. If you have a little more time, do the same while flexing or extending your feet.
  • Spend some time during your daily relaxation routine to create a clear and detailed image of your favorite relaxing place.  When you are stressed, shut your eyes and go there briefly.
  • Do a soft-touch massage of your own face. Close your eyes and use the fingers of both hands to very lightly smooth the tension from your own forehead, temples, etc.
  • Again, during your daily relaxation, experiment with and develop your own one-word mantra.  I like the words peace, serene, calm, green, blue, serenity, luminous. Find your own word. Use it in conjunction with the 3 deep breath technique.
  • If you have a favorite passage from poetry, scripture, or wherever, memorize it and use it as a trigger for relaxation.  For instance, I like these words from the Sermon on the Mount:

    …be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

I’ll add more ideas as I run across them.


As a side-note, here is a fun relaxation exercise to do with a partner.

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Your Weekly Chuckle: Catanalysis



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