Depersonalization, mindfulness, and childhood trauma

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007 Aug;195(8):693-6. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31811f4492.


Depersonalization (DP), i.e., feelings of being detached from one's own mental processes or body, can be considered as a form of mental escape from the full experience of reality. This mental escape is thought to be etiologically linked with maltreatment during childhood. The detached state of consciousness in DP contrasts with certain aspects of mindfulness, a state of consciousness characterized by being in touch with the present moment. Against this background, the present article investigates potential connections between DP severity, mindfulness, and childhood trauma in a mixed sample of nonpatients and chronic nonmalignant pain patients. We found a strong inverse correlation between DP severity and mindfulness in both samples, which persisted after partialing out general psychological distress. In the nonpatient sample, we additionally found significant correlations between emotional maltreatment on the one hand and DP severity (positive) and mindfulness (negative) on the other. We conclude that the results first argue for an antithetical relationship between DP and certain aspects of mindfulness and thus encourage future studies on mindfulness-based interventions for DP and second throw light on potential developmental factors contributing to mindfulness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Awareness / physiology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Consciousness Disorders / physiopathology
  • Consciousness Disorders / psychology
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Depersonalization / diagnosis*
  • Depersonalization / physiopathology
  • Depersonalization / psychology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology