Person sitting on stairs and thinking about the link between depersonalization and addiction

Depersonalization and Addiction

Most people feel disconnected from themselves or their everyday lives from time to time. But if such feelings are persistent and intrusive, they can cause substantial harm to relationships, work life, and daily functioning. Moreover, these states can have a powerful and destructive relationship with substance abuse. If you or a loved one is struggling with depersonalization and addiction, consider a dual diagnosis program for treatment. Interventions like the ones at Recovery Ranch PA can address both concerns for maximum impact. Call us at 717.969.9126 or reach out online for more information on our programs and services in Wrightsville, PA. 

What’s the Difference Between Depersonalization and Derealization? 

Depersonalization and derealization are both expressions of dissociative experiences or disorders. When either of these conditions reaches the level of a diagnosable disorder, it can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life. 

Signs of Depersonalization

Depersonalization symptoms include: 

  • Detachment from one or more aspects of self, such as body parts, sensations, or thoughts
  • The sense of being an outside observer of your actions, feelings, or thoughts
  • A feeling of unreality or questioning whether you exist
  • A sense that you are split between a part of self participating in life and another simply observing

Depersonalization compromises the healthy function of one’s sense of self. 

Signs of Derealization

Derealization, on the other hand, compromises one’s sense of external reality. Derealization symptoms include: 

  • People, objects, or the environment around you feeling dreamlike, lifeless, or unreal
  • Foggy or bubble-like perceptions that may include physical components such as blurry vision or distorted sound, either muffled or amplified
  • Great difficulty or stress when dealing with relationships or other interpersonal areas of life

Doctors often discuss and diagnose the two conditions as depersonalization-derealization disorder since symptoms typically overlap. A person with this diagnosis may feel removed from themselves and outside circumstances or interactions.

Depersonalization-derealization disorder, like other dissociative mental health conditions, often underpins severe trauma. Physical or emotional abuse, a loved one dying, witnessing domestic violence, and having a severely mentally impaired caregiver are all common causes. Dissociation, in these cases, originally happened as a self-protective extreme stress response. “Tuning out” some of the trauma reduced pain at the moment and was, in this sense, adaptive. Unfortunately, this response pattern causes problems when it becomes uncontrollable and common, arising inappropriately in the months or years to come. 

Substance use is another possible cause of depersonalization-derealization. Certain drugs, especially cannabis alone and with alcohol, can trigger these symptoms in some people who use them. While low-level temporary dissociation is common among most people who use these drugs, for some, the drug triggers effects that persist for weeks, months, or years following use. Those struggling with anxiety or panic disorder may be at elevated risk. 

Hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine, salvia, and 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) can also prompt depersonalization and derealization during use. A link between these drugs and lasting symptoms is not well established. However, for clinical diagnosis of depersonalization-derealization disorder, symptoms must persist well beyond when a person is actually high on a substance that may have caused them. 

It’s also worth noting that derealization can start with central nervous system (CNS) trauma, such as severe head injury. Depersonalization, on the other hand, is more likely to be purely psychologically based. Whatever the original cause, if you or a loved one is currently abusing a substance and struggling with depersonalization-derealization disorder, getting help as soon as possible is crucial. A dual diagnosis treatment program can help with withdrawal from the addictive substance and address mental health concerns such as dissociation, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or bipolar disorder. 

Find Help for Depersonalization and Addiction in Pennsylvania at Recovery Ranch PA 

Don’t wait to ask if you or a loved one could use help. Instead, contact Recovery Ranch PA today at 717.969.9126. Our caring and compassionate team is standing by and eager to help you take the first steps toward better mental and physical health.

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