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Depersonalization and Anatman

A reader asks:

How does the feelings of depersonalization tie in to the Buddhist philosophy?

DP briefly described is the feeling that the world is unreal and that the self is disconnected from this world which seems foreign.

I’m trying to tie it in to the concept that we are all one, and that the world is less illusionary in this state.

I’ve heard it described as the evil twin of enlightenment because there is a strong feeling of consciousness and awareness.

People who’ve experienced this condition often have anxiety issues, as I have. But I think that this anxiety and the altered perception is more indicative of something that Buddhism could explain better. I’m only just learning about Buddhism.

My Response:


According to the Wikipedia article you pointed to, depersonalization is seen as a treatable psychological disorder. In many ways, seeing the physical world as “unreal” is one of the goals of Buddhist meditation. Buddhism would be fine with seeing the external world as an “other.” That being said, the part where you are real is the issue. “You” are not real either.


Buddhists call this idea of there being no-self Anatman, and it was introduced here. The basic idea is that I am not my body. I am not sitting on this chair, typing at this desk. We are all interconnected. I am the desk. I am the chair. I don’t know where you are right now, but you and I are connected as well. I am you.


Scientifically, if you get down to the point where molecules fly around and quantum mechanics happen, this is even more true; we really are all interconnected. The jury may still be out on whether or not our consciousnesses (if there is such a thing as consciousness) are linked, but there is a relationship with the physical world. These are difficult concepts, and it’s likely that others will disagree with my explanation; the comment section below is for those comments!


I’m not sure that I have any kind of enlightened advice for you with this situation. You might need to meditate for a long while on how this concept relates to you. As Wikipedia said, there are medical treatments; whether or not you want to try those is not for me to say, but that is an option.


2 comments to Depersonalization and Anatman

  • helena

    I have quite few incurable health issues that at times make it hard to accept myself because of the suffering / endless DIY involved in maintaining it ( i have been housebound in bed 3 yrs )

    I used to meditate yrs ago but cant do that either now unfortunately very well .

    Do you have any suggestions on how one can transcend such issues without becoming stuck in the anatman or other negative states ?



  • Frederic Floyd

    Fantastic reply. You have felt, learned and understood what is behind the curtains.

    Years of not understanding the feeling of unreality. and attempting to forcefully eject this feeling led me to further anger and despair.
    Now I see that I may be lucky enough to not only read and understand Anatman, but to whole heartedly feel it and see it.

    A life of depersonalization is different and can be painful and terrifying. But undeniably and incredibly interesting.

    I have read that DP is like an evil twin to true enlightenment and it is difficult to compare. even though so similar.
    Much like two different artists, with similar styles and feelings to their work. but deep down they live by different rules to their emotions and the way that they perceive.

    I first went down the road of meds, western psychiatry and programs. But to no avail on the symptoms.
    Mindfulness based cognitive therapy really opened my eyes. Where Meditation is key.
    Since then I’ve learned about buddhism and the real wisdom it reveals.
    I still feel very unstable at times. and I try to push the feelings aside.
    When my mind has stilled I can see that pushing away of feelings is detrimental. and that the life event is violently teaching me about something important.
    something important that i have not experienced enough in this life time.