What"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgs it like to live with depersonalization in dissociative identity disorder ? Articulating the answer is challenging for me. Partly because I don"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt know what it"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgs like to live without DID; partly because describing it requires a base-line level of awareness that dissociation by nature impedes. And partly because the question is so large, sort of like asking what it"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgs like to be female. Breaking dissociation down into the five primary ways it manifests makes illuminating the experience of living with dissociative identity disorder easier. Depersonalization - the feeling that you"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgre separate from your body - is the first.

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Defining Depersonalization

From the Dissociation FAQs at the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation online:

Depersonalization is the sense of being detached from, or "https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgnot in"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpg one"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgs body. This is what is often referred to as an "https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgout-of-body"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpg experience. However, some people report rather profound alienation from their bodies, a sense that they do not recognize themselves in the mirror, recognize their face, or simply feel not "https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgconnected"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpg to their bodies in ways which are challenging to articulate.

I used to take meditation classes. One of the exercises was to imagine yourself outside your body. The idea was to learn to recognize when we lose touch with ourselves and the present moment so we can re-engage. To achieve that, the instructor encouraged us to shift conscious awareness to other parts of the room and look back on our bodies sitting in the chairs. It sounds like depersonalization.

But as someone with dissociative identity disorder, I"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgve been experiencing depersonalization for as long as I can remember. Those exercises in meditation class never produced it or any other form of dissociation. I felt detached, yes. Even so, I can drift up to the ceiling and look down on my body all I want. As long as I recognize that body as mine, it doesn"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt feel like depersonalization.

What Does Depersonalization Feel Like?

I frequently become suddenly aware that I"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgm speaking but have no idea what I"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgm talking about or why I"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgm talking about it. Parts of my body often don"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt look like mine. I"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgm capable of realizing that my hand, for instance, is attached to me and therefore mine. But during these moments, my hand looks like it belongs to someone else. Sometimes I don"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt recognize my reflection. In television and movie depictions this always looks very dramatic. The person looking into the mirror is obviously not the person in the reflection. In real life the experience is not the same. I see the same body, the same face I see every day. Still, it doesn"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt look like me at all.

What distinguishes the detachment I felt in meditation class from true depersonalization is the sense that my body is foreign, belonging to someone else. When dissociation manifests as depersonalization, the effect is that you feel not just detached from your body, but like it"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgs not your body at all.

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Photo of woman in mirror by michaelmelrose Photo of woman with hands in front of face by Klearchos Kapoutsis

APA ReferenceGray, H. (2010, September 20). What Is Depersonalization in Dissociative Identity Disorder?, inter-base.net. Retrieved on 2021, September 24 from https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgblogs/dissociativeliving/2010/09/what-is-dissociation-part-1-depersonalization


I have never identified my reflection as me. Mirrors or pictures, it does not matter. I don"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt imagine I appear better or worse or any specific qualities I have in mind. Just the fact that, that"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgs not me, I have no connection to the reflection before me. I am completely detached from the Image. It doesn"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt seem disturbing due to the fact it has been this way all my life, the feeling is constant ANF therefore normalized. I wonder if this is common and maybe just a subject that has become taboo, or opens up a judgement that is uncomfortable.

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This stuff happens to me too I think. I thought that this is just what happens to everyone, but only now did I know about this. I always felt so different from my body. I behave, and then I question myself why I did so? Was it me who did that? I sometimes after looking at myself realize that "https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgThis is the person people see"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpg or "https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgAll the things I did in the past were done by me, the person in the mirror"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpg, or just simply "https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgI am a human, and I am an individual person"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpg and I have to remind myself by thinking after looking at the mirror "https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgThat is me"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpg. I feel like the body I have is someone else"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgs, while when I am distracted I never feel anything about my physical body at all, and when I do start thinking I keep thinking deeper and deeper, then realize that this is who I am, and this is not someone else. I don"https://inter-base.net/looking-in-the-mirror-and-seeing-someone-else/imager_1_1559_700.jpgt know if this is DID or just normal thinking.