Functional and Dissociative Neurological Symptoms : a patient's guide

Hemi

Dissociative Symptoms - 'feeling spaced out'

What are Dissociative Symptoms?

Dissociative symptoms are commonly experienced along with the other functional symptoms described in this website. It can be very useful to identify them and understand them both in terms of understanding the nature of your own symptoms and learning how to regain control of your body.

Dissociative symptoms include :

Depersonalisation – a feeling that your body doesn’t quite belong to you or is disconnected from you

Derealisation – a feeling that you are disconnected from the world around you or “spaced out”

For a detailed description of dissociative symptoms you can download an article here  which describes them for a neurology journal

Here are some of the ways in which people describe depersonalisation and derealisation.

Depersonalisation

Common: ‘I felt strange / weird’, ‘I felt as if I was floating away’, ‘I felt disembodied / disconnected / detached / far away from myself’, ‘apart from everything’, ‘in a place of my own/ alone’, ‘like I was there but not there’, ’I could see and hear everything but couldn’t respond’

Less Common: ‘puppet-like’, ‘robot-like’, ‘acting a part’, ‘I couldn’t feel any pain’ ‘like I was made of cardboard', ‘I felt like I was just a head stuck on a body’, ‘like a spectator looking at myself on TV’, ‘an out of body experience’, ‘my hands or feet felt smaller / bigger’. ‘when I touched things it didn’t feel like me touching them’

Derealisation

‘My surroundings seemed unreal / far away’, ‘I felt spaced out’, ‘It was like looking at the world through a veil or glass’, ‘I felt cut off or distant from the immediate surroundings’, ‘objects appeared diminished in size / flat / dream-like / cartoon like / artificial / unsolid’

Why its helpful to find out about dissociative symptoms?

These symptoms occur in all kinds of situations. Most people have experienced them to some degree when they have the flu or are very sleep deprived

Understanding what dissociative symptoms are, that there is a name for them and that they don’t mean you are “going mad”, can often be helpful to people with functional symptoms who may experience these symptoms as part of their illness

Fear and anxiety can intensify dissociative symptoms so if you know more about them then the symptoms themselves can be less intense.

The experience of being somewhat disconnected from your body may also explain to you why at other times your body feels disconnected or weak down one side. This is why functional weakness  is sometimes called ‘dissociative motor disorder’ and why we have the name ‘dissociative seizures’.

More Information

For a detailed description of dissociative symptoms you can download an article here  which describes them for a neurology journal

There is also more information about depersonalisation available from the following:

Wikipedia – not always reliable but as of Sep 2008 the page is helpful

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depersonalization_disorder

the “Depersonalisation Research Unit” in London

http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/departments/?locator=911