Dysfunctional Families: Depersonalization Disorder

Dysfunctional Families: Depersonalization Disorder

Most of my clients at disinherited.com come from what generally might be described as dysfunctional families that ultimately result in a disinheritance for a number of complex reasons.

Part of my job as an estate litigation lawyer is to try and understand the complexity of the family from which my client has presented him or herself so that I can better both understand the client and the potential approach to resolution of their claim.

I occasionally am told by a client of that his or her parent was unable to express any feelings of love or warmth, especially to his or her children.

The emotional coldness may be caused by any number of factors, but could also be as a result of a depersonalization disorder from which approximately 1 and 100 people suffer.

I am certainly not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so I am not quick to put a label on what caused my client’s parental emotional abuse, and lack of love, but when I hear such a factual scenario, I sometimes think of this disorder, which results in the person suffering from a sense of disconnect from the world around them, their own body, and particularly those to which they should express love and affection.

As previously stated, a person’s inability to show love or affection may be caused by any number of emotional factors that result in a different label, such as a narcissistic personality disorder (which I have written about in separate blogs).

Depersonalization disorder, strictly speaking is where the person has persistent feelings of being disconnected or detached from oneself, and a feeling of loss or control over their thoughts or actions.
Their actions are often described as “out of body”

They may perceive their surroundings as dreamlike, foggy and distorted. An actual diagnosis is very difficult due to the ambiguity of the language used when describing such episodes.

Although the disorder is a distortion of reality, it is not a form of psychosis as the person is able to distinguish between their own experiences and the objective reality of the real world.. In other words, they can distinguish between reality and fantasy.

The diagnosis typically is made when the symptoms cause family distress, or impair social or occupational functioning.

The depersonalization experienced is such that the person feels completely disconnected from their physical body and their loved ones, feeling detached from their own thoughts and emotions and living their lives as distant from others.

The exact cause of the depersonalization is not known, but childhood abuse is suspected, along with severe stress, major depressive disorder and hallucinogenic drugs.

Men and women appear to be diagnosed in equal numbers and onset is typically in the teenage years or early 20s.

The 6 most common signs of a depersonalization disorder are:

  1. A feeling of no connection to the person that is seen in a mirror
  2. a feeling of detachment from one’s environment- the feeling is a disconnection from the world, but also an unfamiliarity with individuals and inanimate objects and all surroundings
  3. a feeling of being “ robot like”
  4. a complete separation feeling from one’s body, as if wound up in cotton and the body is lifeless;
  5. a feeling that one’s memories belong to someone else
  6. knowing that you are not delusional, but that there is something wrong with the way you view the world

Dysfunctional Families and Narcissistic Parents

Free Yourself From Narcissistic Parenting

I frequently encounter the disinherited victims of a deceased parent, and after a few minutes of questioning, it is easy for me to determine that the deceased likely suffered from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and the victim of narcissistic parenting.


A present client who has endured a great deal of suffering all her life due to narcissistic parenting, in this case, her uncaring father, forwarded me some passages about how to deal with this painful issue.

I am reproducing them today in the blog as I believe there is a good deal of need for this information.

I basically told my client to get over her father as he was one of the most self centred people I had ever heard about in 38 years of practicing law, and not worthy of her stress, depression and lost love.


Narcissistic Parenting: Take Back Your Life from Your Narcissistic Father

Narcissists cast dark shadows over our lives, especially when we are very young. Deep inside, instinctively,  we know that we must survive. Many of us go along not only to get along but to stay alive psychologically. Some young children in highly disturbed narcissistic families become hyper-vigilant – always surveying their environments for danger, threats, visceral feelings of being completely unsafe. Other children are less aware of the dynamics in the family on a conscious level. They distract themselves with activity, telling themselves that everything is all right. In our earliest years our minds normalize what we are experiencing. It is the rare person who as a small child knew that there was something fundamentally wrong, unjust, and highly disturbed about one or both of our parents.

Narcissistic fathers cannot parent. They are emotionally unavailable to their children. They go through the motions of interacting with them. They may give greater attention to a child whom they perceive will become a star, a standout in the family – this is another narcissistic supply for the father. He doesn’t care about the individuality of this son or daughter. He sees potential in them that can be nurtured and eventually will reflect  his greatness.The kids who don’t make the cut–the ones who are less attractive, (Blind / Deaf – CDD), highly sensitive, not socially skilled—-are set aside for neglect and constant ridicule. To the narcissistic father you are either his possession or you don’t exist. This man constantly appraises the value of his children to him. He sets unapproachable goals. Everyone must be at the top of the class or else. These fathers will take a son who has athletic capability and make them work out to the point of exhaustion and injury to fulfill their dream of having a son who is a professional athlete. Andre Agassi, the great tennis champion talks about his cruel narcissistic father’s forcing him from early childhood to practice hour after hour without let up. He didn’t care that his son hated tennis. Father prevailed. And yes, Agassi became a great champion but at a great price–years of abuse and agony.

There is an accumulation of truth about your narcissistic father. Some of his children recognize early that they are being used to prop up their father’s ego supplies and his grandiose self vision. Others identify with the father and spend their lives as his living servants. Those who wake up to the truth that the father is a merciless narcissist, sever this toxic relationship and begin the healing process of fulfilling their birthright of becoming a free separate individual. Some turn to professional psychotherapy and grieve for the real father they never had. There are other healing paths–meditation, hatha yoga, journaling, the forming of meaningful close relationships with individuals who care deeply about the real you. Those who go through this passage discover that they are finally free to lead their lives on their terms. They thrive, discover creative gifts that have been left dormant and gain confidence and inner peace by embracing their real selves.

Visit website: thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life
Email: lmlphd@thenarcissistinyourlife


Narcissistic Parenting Sabotages Children

By definition sabotage is a “treacherous action.” Treachery when perpetrated upon a family member means destruction and annihilation. It is beyond ruthlessness.

Growing up in a family that exhibits narcissistic parenting is like being in the middle of a deadly fire fight twenty four hours a day. The child who survives these skirmishes and all out wars is truly remarkable. I hear and read life stories of those who found survival techniques. Many of them hide in their own shoes, spent time with friends to keep out of the war zone, slipped their minds away into books, video games, drawing, writing, other creative activities. Some children were fortunate to have a grandparent who would give them times of respite.

Some children who have this experience are in a constant state of anxiety – fight or flight syndrome. The narcissist – mother or father or both rule the household. Screams and demands–slaps and threats can be heard and experienced frequently in these homes. The narcissist lives for himself (herself) alone. Narcissists don’t love their children. They use them to prop up their egos if they perceive that a particular child can add to their perfect image. In this case the child is indulged. The rest of the kids are cast aside and neglected or treated abysmally. Some of these children find ingenious ways to save their sense of self, to conceal their creative gifts but continue to use them and to keep the inner fire of a sense of self burning brightly. I have known individuals who have been able to accomplish this despite all of the narcissistic pathology of their mother or father or both parents.

Adult children continue to heal through skilled psychotherapy and many forms of bringing the body/mind back into balance: gentle yoga, meditation, support groups, full use of your creativity. You can heal. You will heal.


Everyone is Disposable, Even the Spouse and Children

Narcissists are incapable of sincere feelings and deep relationships. They are brilliant actors. You make believe, even if you have been married to a narcissist for a number of years, that this person loves you. The narcissist in incapable of loving anyone. This is not part of his psyche. He/she views human relationships as stepping stones that will enhance their image socially and professionally, impress the right people.(Bernice). They are vehicles that smooth their way toward goals they have been fixated most of their lives. Absolutely no one, not even their spouses or children is permitted to create obstacles as they climb professionally, creating greater influence and connecting with the right people. When push comes to shove the narcissist is compelled due his dark motivations to manipulate and exploit those closest to them. Narcissists often substitute one family for another. It isn’t unusual for them to start with a beginning family. When they discover that their spouse and children are not capable of heightening their prestige and power reach, they abandon entire families. They have absolutely no guilt about these cruel, psychologically devastating decisions and their painful consequences.

Narcissists shift quickly to the next phase of their climb toward their targeted summit by seeking a second marriage that will bring them the connections and access to which they are entitled. This time they make sure that the new spouse has any number of a combination of qualifications. She could be a prominent medical specialist who is part of an auspicious social circle. Marrying into a prominent well established family is a tried and true route. Once accepted by this new family the narcissist digs in to eventually control its key members To solidify the union, they often have children with the new spouse to become indispensable to their newly created nuclear family and extended families.

The previous spouse and children have long been forgotten. The narcissist acts as if they never existed. Often he refuses to provide alimony and child support and uses the manipulations of the court system to avoid his legal and moral obligations. The narcissist views all of this like an annoyance, something he uses his handpicked attorneys to distance himself from the past. For the narcissist it doesn’t exist.

Narcissists are ultimate opportunists and exploiters so it isn’t surprising that some of them jump from one relationship or marriage to another, always looking for the fulfillment of their grandiose visions.

To learn about the narcissistic personality in-depth and to protect yourself from his/her tactics, study this fixed personality disorder which does not change. You deserve to be a part of genuine loving relationships built on trust, deep love and respect.

Further reading on Narcissistic Parenting

Cutting Ties with the Family and Estrangement

How to Survive a Narcissistic or Abusive Family

Aggressive Narcissism – There is Only Win or Lose