Sunday, October 24, 2010

anomalous body experience in depersonalization

According to Sierra (2009), the anomalous body experiences in depersonalization can be subdivided into several related concepts:
[Sierra, M. (2009). Depersonalization: A New Look at a Neglected Syndrome. Cambridge University Press.]

- Lack of body ownership feelings; In contrast to the rubber hand illusion, patients with depersonalization are difficult to have the sense of body ownership. They experience parts of their body or the totality of it as alien. One patient describes, 'I see my legs and hear footsteps and feel the muscles but it feels as if I have no body'.

- Feelings of 'loss of agency'; Patients complain about the absence of agency feelings. Their behavior feels automatic and robotic. 'I would notice my hands and feet moving, but as if they did not belong to me and were moving automatically'. Sierra also adds that lacking a sense of agency occupies a central role in the symptoms of depersonalization.

- Disembodiment feelings; Experience that the self is localized outside one's physical body boundaries. Unlike the case of out-of-body experience or autoscopy, it is not accompanied by a feeling of occupying a location in extra-personal space.

- Somatosensory distortions; Perceptual distortions of the body, for example, the hands have grown larger or smaller; the body feels lighter.

- Heightened self-observation; A feeling of being a detached observer of one's own behavior. Patients often describes it as a kind of split of their subjective awareness into two; one in observation and the other in action. This is a noticeable feature of depersonalization.

After all, depersonalization is the 'lived dualism of mind and body', so to speak. Patients experiences the mind separated from the body, thus they can't have the sense of ownership or sense of agency anymore. Now they are totally disembodied self-observers and living the world of perfect mind-body dualism!