What If Your Anxiety or Depression Is Actually 'DDD'?

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An increasingly common psychological disorder called depersonalization may be going undiagnosed.

United States News, United States Headlines

There are many analogies Sandy Gale uses to describe her affliction: It's as if she is separated from others by an invisible barrier, as though her"self" doesn't completely fill out her skin, or that she is like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. But none of them, she says, really captures how she feels."Nobody really gets it," she says, sighing."Nobody."

Despite having a master's degree in film that once got her a production job at 20th Century Fox, Gale, now 48, hasn't worked in more than 10 years. Most of her energy goes towards managing her feelings of alienation and avoiding anything that might trigger an all-out attack, where she feels so disconnected from her flesh and bone that she can barely move."The woman who lived beneath me invited me over, but I'd been avoiding it because I didn't want to sit and talk.

Jeff Abugel, the founder of depersonalization.info and coauthor with clinical researcher Daphne Simeon, MD, of , elaborates:"There is something very depersonalizing about society today. You can go on the Internet and be whoever you want to be." Some observers speculate that our endless choices of entertainment outlets eat away at the grounded self.

After completing medical school at Columbia University in 1987, Simeon stumbled upon disassociation as a research fellow studying severe character disorders. Many"cutters" injured themselves because they felt depersonalized, she realized: inflicting pain was their way of feeling more real. The state was fascinating, she says, and as a bonus:"It turned out to be a wonderful area to explore and really build a niche for myself.

As Simeon published her findings, she started getting invited to hospitals to educate other practitioners. In her book, she suggests that depersonalization disorder may affect as much as one percent to 2 percent of the population. With her reputation now staked on depersonalization, it's not surprising that Simeon sees a hidden epidemic of it in our midst, but even some of her supporters don't share her belief that the disorder is widespread.

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