A Hole in the Mirror: The Experimental and Phenomenological Psychopathology of Psychogenic Depersonalization

Dissertation, Duke University (1992)


This project comprises a two-part synthesis and exploration of everything that is presently known of psychogenic depersonalization experience , and advances a psychometric and experimental analysis in an attempt to construct an Empirical Phenomenology of Depersonalization . EPD consists of a descriptive phenomenology of the experiential features of PDE, a self-report scale open to psychometric analysis, and an experimental venture. EPD is thus an instance of the experimental psychopathology of altered states of consciousness. ; Descriptive phenomenology. The history of theories of PDE is outlined, epidemiological data summarized, phenomenological/experiential-features of PDE are delineated, classified and explored along theoretical and empirical dimensions, semantical problems surrounding the term are defined, and a classificatory-scheme is presented. It is argued that the changes in consciousness and personal identity described in this phenomenology are suggestive of the presence of a second consciousness for whom feelings of unreality, non-embodiment, and detypification are normal psychological features . Psychogenic depersonalization is, loosely speaking, a form of Multiple Personality Disorder. ; Psychometric analysis. The results of a two-fold empirical investigation into PDE are described. First, a questionnaire is developed to measure the features and frequency of depersonalization. PDE has a high incidence in the college population, without respect to gender, and is "mosaical" in the above sense. The results of three independent factor analyses are presented. Common to the analyses are three items reflecting degrees of objective self-observation, detachment of point of view, and anomalous cognitive episodes. It is argued that the items mutually reflect the basic factor at work in PDE: psychological disconnectedness. Further, data suggests that decay in concentration accompanies PDE, and that concentrated attention may temporarily relieve mild forms of PDE. The result is made compatible with a Double Mind Theory. ; Experimental ventures. The results of pilot and main experiments are presented, and a new feature of PDE uncovered. Prosopagnosic Depersonalization , of defacialization, consists in the suspension of reality-sense and familiarity with respect to one's own face in a mirror-reflection. ;It is concluded that an Empirical Phenomenology of PDE consists in a descriptive phenomenology of the experiential-features of depersonalization, administration of DQ and BT, and an experimental exploration or mirror-images of self

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