My blog last month mentioned a book entitled Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder by Fugen Neziroglu, Ph.D. and Katharine Donnelly, MA as a good place to start for getting information about coming to grips with depersonalization. Well, it’s time for this month’s blog and this is the book I want to discuss. The Foreword for this book was written by Daphne Simeon, MD, the author of the book reviewed in last month’s blog and thus this month’s book comes highly recommended by the main expert in the field of research of depersonalization. Both of the authors of this book were working at the Bio Behavioral Institute in Great Neck, NY at the time of the book’s publication.
The authors remind the reader that it will be a difficult process dealing with their depersonalization and remind them to keep the focus on how much they value getting better. They suggest that it will probably be helpful to have family members read the book to help them understand better what the reader is going through. It is important for family members to understand the sensory, perceptual, mood, cognitive and behavioral changes that someone with depersonalization may experience.
Neziroglu and Donnelly remind the reader that thinking a lot about depersonalization in a problem-solving manner will likely worsen the feelings connected to it. They state that the alternative is to be willing to experience the feelings and to stop the negative thinking as the person works toward living the life he or she want.
The authors apply the ideas from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), as articulated by Stephen Hayes and several others in several books, as a method to help a person with depersonalization disorder come to grips with it. This approach regards suffering and discomfort as not only a normal part of life but also necessary for the person’s survival. This approach suggests that many people rely too much on their emotions to guide their behaviors. The important point is not to argue whether one’s feelings in a particular situation are legitimate or not, but rather to see if they are urging one in the right direction. A person shows better psychological functioning when she or he is able to endure a range of experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant.
Cognitive fusion is when you buy into what your mind presents to you. We have a natural tendency to assume that what we are thinking must be true. However, we can see a thought as just a thought and not something that we are bound to and must follow. This then is called cognitive defusion; however, it requires a deliberate effort because it doesn’t come naturally. Detaching from the grip of our thoughts helps us to be present to our experience. We become more willing to experience discomfort while we engage in activities that have value to us.
The authors discuss using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) strategies to deal with depersonalization. They discuss mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness as they relate to dealing with the experience of depersonalization. They also discuss strategies from behavioral therapy: exposure and response prevention, interoceptive cue exposure, exposure to extreme emotions and behavioral activation.
You may questions about these techniques and thus need to check the book. You may also have more questions about depersonalization. It’s likely that your question may be one of the many that the authors answer in the final fifteen pages of the book. Thus if you are suffering from depersonalization, it would seem like a good idea to read this book and perhaps also see a therapist, perhaps one at Specialized Therapy Associates.