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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1907; see de- + personalization. Related: Depersonalize; depersonalized.


n. 1 the act of depersonalizing or the state of being depersonalized 2 (context psychology English) the loss of one's sense of personal identity 3 (context psychiatry English) A feeling of being unreal, detached or unable to feel emotion

  1. n. emotional dissociative disorder in which there is loss of contact with your own personal reality accompanied by feelings of unreality and strangeness [syn: depersonalisation, depersonalization disorder, depersonalisation disorder, depersonalization neurosis, depersonalisation neurosis]

  2. (existentialism) a loss of personal identity; a feeling of being an anonymous cog in a stupid social machine [syn: depersonalisation]

  3. representing a human being as a physical thing deprived of personal qualities or individuality; "according to Marx, treating labor as a commodity exemplified the reification of the individual" [syn: depersonalisation, reification]


Depersonalization can consist of a reality or detachment within the self, regarding one's mind or body, or being a detached observer of oneself. Subjects feel they have changed, and the world has become vague, dreamlike, less real, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing experience. Chronic depersonalization refers to depersonalization-derealization disorder, which is classified by the DSM-5 as a dissociative disorder.

Though degrees of depersonalization and derealization can happen to anyone who is subject to temporary anxiety or stress, chronic depersonalization is more related to individuals who have experienced a severe trauma or prolonged stress/anxiety. Depersonalization-derealization is the single most important symptom in the spectrum of dissociative disorders, including dissociative identity disorder and " dissociative disorder not otherwise specified" (DD-NOS). It is also a prominent symptom in some other non-dissociative disorders, such as anxiety disorders, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, migraines, and sleep deprivation; it can also be a symptom of some types of neurological seizure and can indicate low levels of brain serotonin.

In social psychology, and in particular self-categorization theory, the term depersonalization has a different meaning and refers to "the stereotypical perception of the self as an example of some defining social category".

Usage examples of "depersonalization".

This is called depersonalization, in which the liveliness and details of character seem to vanish.

As it jumped from bed to bed, killing patients left and right, doctors began to notice signs of mental derangement, psychosis, depersonalization, zombie-like behavior.

Local psychiatrists recognized an indigenous depersonalization syndrome.

Examples of crime scene characteristics may include the use of restraints, manner of death, depersonalization of the victim, possible staging of the crime, and the amount of physical evidence at the crime scene.

The term depersonalization is used to describe actions taken by the murderer to obscure the personal identity of the victim.

However, not all depersonalization is as overt as these examples imply.

Many writers of the post-industrial revolution era were horrified by the depersonalization of the assembly-line factory system and believed it threatened not only the worker's individual rights but the Victorian ideal of the closely knit family.

It is due largely to the in­creasing complexity of society and the depersonalization of the individual into a sociometric unit.

Past decisions have left us with pollution, depersonalization, and urban blight.