Dissociative PTSD

A prominent characteristic of this subtype of PTSD involves dissociative symptoms, such as depersonalization or derealization, along with emotional detachment. Depersonalization entails feeling disconnected from one’s own body, thoughts, or emotions, while derealization involves feeling detached from the surrounding environment. It’s important to note that individuals experiencing depersonalization and/or derealization in the context of PTSD retain awareness that their perceptions do not align with reality, distinguishing these experiences from those seen in psychotic disorders.

Characteristics of dissociative PTSD include:

  • higher severity of PTSD symptoms and usually high degree of trauma
  • higher levels of comorbid mental health problems
  • dissociative flashbacks and amnesia
  • more significant history of early childhood trauma (earlier trauma is worse)

Depersonalization symptoms

  • feeling like you’re completely detached from yourself
  • feeling like you’re outside of your body, watching yourself in a movie or
  • watching from above
  • may include the belief that you don’t have a self
  • feeling detached from parts of yourself or your own thoughts “My thoughts aren’t my own”
  • having a distorted sense of time that is either too fast, slow or can stop all together
  • feeling mentally, emotionally, or physically numb
  • feeling like you have no control over your body, including your movements or speech

Derealization symptoms

  • feeling detached from reality
  • feeling like you’re trapped in a glass bottle or aquarium watching the world around you
  • experiencing others or objects as foggy, artificial, fake or dreamlike.
  • Feelings like you are in a movie
  • seeing objects as distorted in size, shape or distance
  • experiencing sounds or voices as muted or heightened (amplified up or down)


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