The Existentialists might have been greatly amused by the quackery of today’s mental health profession.
Specifically, a “Camus-ian” plague of psychic disconnection appears to be afflicting the enormity of humanity. Greedy psychiatrists and desperate psychotherapists call it depersonalisation disorder. It appears to be yet another conjured mental malady that is proving to be the newest, greatest pathway to psychological prescriptions and therapeutic profit.
According to the Guardian, this disorder, known smartly as “DPD,” (the gravity and threat of any mental imbalance can only be strengthened and validated by a harsh-sounding acronym) is characterized by a cognitive fogginess and isolation from our body and intellectual presence.
People with depersonalisation disorder describe a sense of complete detachment, a life lived as an automaton or on autopilot, characterised by an absence of emotions, either good or bad. (You might think of Channel 4’s recent hit Humans, which featured an intelligence trapped, powerless, in the body of a robot.) They feel as though they are observing their life through a plate of glass or a dense fog, or as if it is appearing in a film. Their bodies and their beings have separated; their limbs are no longer their own.
Whatever the trigger for DPD, sufferers report remarkably similar symptoms. They talk of barriers between consciousness and real life, of emptiness, futility and estrangement. Two books by the American journalist Jeffrey Abugel are entitled Feeling Unreal, and Stranger to Myself after the refrains of people experiencing DPD. Charlton independently came up with the image of the little man sitting in her skull, but was then amazed when she found a sketch online depicting precisely the same figure. It remains high on a Google image search for DPD.
DPD is different from psychosis or schizophrenia in that people with the disorder are never convinced of an alternate reality, that objects or people have become something or someone they are not. Instead, DPD presents a world of metaphor and simile: people talk often about their experiences “feeling like” or “as if” something unusual has occurred.
Moreover, people with DPD often do not appear at all unwell or different to even their closest acquaintances; despite experiencing a total lack of empathy, friends and family do not notice any marked change. The person with DPD is often able to sleepwalk through daily life, and even to maintain close relationships, but are robbed of the emotional peaks and troughs of normal human existence. It only enhances sensations of detachment.
Sigh…here we go.
Another descent into the customary practice of intrusive mental health pathologization of a different, not dangerous, way of emoting and thinking.
The article concludes with the lamentations of Allen Killick, a DPD “sufferer.”
“I have had for the last 61 years a PERMANENT feeling that I do not exist. Nothing I do or think seems to be able to change that feeling. I just want to be me, whatever that me is. I long for that so much.”
It’s not that people are overwhelmed by a sense of “nothingness” or “transitory voids” – it’s that they recognize it. This is a “disorder” of the intelligent and aware. DPD is a “normal” manner of extrapolating one’s self-existence. There are many avenues to do so.
Why doesn’t the mental health profession demote other similar human tools of eliciting self-awareness to “mental disease” as well? Gluttony, materialism, hyper-emotionalism, wealth fixation, status fixation…all of these are equally normal human responses to realizations of the horrible truth and reality that is our very lack of significance and meaning in an impersonal world of over-abundant humanity and all its attendant egoism?
In fact, I will go one step further: depersonalisation disorder is a highly favorable response to our imbalanced, scattered human society where we embrace an externalized existence that lacks stoicism and calm, understated discipline.
DPD is equanimity. I suffer from it, but consciously so.
Now if we can transfer this plague of mental distress upon the criminal, ghetto corners of our society, rates of crime and violence may actually fall.
DPD is the antagonist to the worst aspects of human nature, 2015. DPD endorses inner scrutiny, private self-awareness and standardization of emotions and behavior.
What can possibly be wrong with this, now, in this vast, interconnected world that encourages discovery of existence and self-definition outside of one’s own skin?