Depersonalization (a sense of detachment from one’s mind or body) and derealization (experiencing the external world as dreamlike or unreal) can be experienced with different intensity

and in various contexts, for example, during meditation, religious practices or intense sports exhaustion. Such states may also be natural reactions to traumatic experiences, when the mind detaches itself from overwhelming feelings and one’s surroundings as a way of coping. Some forms of depersonalization and derealization are chronic, significantly dysfunctional, cause distress, and are regarded as pathological.

Yet there are no empirical studies that compare normal and pathological depersonalization / derealization, how they relate to trauma, and how individuals subjectively experience them. In this project, structured clinical interviews will be conducted with healthy people who are fire-fighters and policemen, to analyze and compare their personal experiences of depersonalization and derealization. Such studies are necessary to help clinicians distinguish between healthy forms of depersonalization and derealization from  these alterations in consciousness which are likely to indicate trauma-related disorders, subsequently leading to better diagnostics, referral, and treatment.

The project is supported financed by the National Science Center in Poland, grant number: 2016/22/E/HS6/00306.

Research team: 
Igor Pietkiewicz, Ph.D.; Radosław Tomalski, M.D., Ph.D.; Suzette Boon, Ph.D.; Onno van der Hart, Ph.D.; Anna Bańbura, M.Sc.; Szymon Nęcki, M.Sc.; Anna Hełka, Ph.D.