Prevalence and childhood antecedents of depersonalization syndrome in a UK birth cohort
- William E. LeeAffiliated withKing’s College London, Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Weston Education Centre Email author
- , Charlie H. T. KwokAffiliated withKing’s College London, School of Biomedical and Health Sciences
- , Elaine C. M. HunterAffiliated withMaudsley Hospital
- , Marcus RichardsAffiliated withMRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, University College London
- , Anthony S. DavidAffiliated withKing’s College London, Section of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry
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Depersonalization syndrome is characterised by a sense of unreality about the self [depersonalization (DP)] and/or the outside world [derealization (DR)]. Prevalence estimates vary widely. Little is known about childhood antecedents of the disorder although emotional abuse is thought to play a role.
Longitudinal data from 3,275 participants of a UK population-based birth cohort (the MRC National Survey of Health and Development) were used to: (1) assess the prevalence of DP syndrome at age 36, measured by the Present State Examination (PSE); and (2) examine the effects of a range of socio-demographic, childhood adversity and emotional responses as potential risk factors for DP.
Thirty three survey members were classified with DP, yielding a prevalence of 0.95% [95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.56–1.34]. There were no associations with socio-economic status, parental death or divorce; self-reported accidents, childhood depression, tendency to daydream or reactions to criticism. However, teacher-estimated childhood anxiety was a strong independent predictor of adult depersonalization, and there were strong cross-sectional relationships between DP and anxiety and depression caseness.
To our knowledge this is the first study assessing nationwide prevalence of the DP syndrome and uses longitudinal data to explore childhood risk factors for adult DP. The prevalence of adult DP was slightly lower than reported by other surveys. The study found that childhood anxiety was the only significant predictor of the adult DP syndrome, supporting the view that depersonalisation disorder forms part of the spectrum of responses to anxiety.
KeywordsDepersonalization Prevalence Population Childhood Anxiety
- Prevalence and childhood antecedents of depersonalization syndrome in a UK birth cohort
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Volume 47, Issue 2 , pp 253-261
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- 1. King’s College London, Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Weston Education Centre, London, SE5 9RJ, UK
- 2. King’s College London, School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS, UK
- 3. Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 8AZ, UK
- 4. MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, University College London, 33 Bedford Place, London, WC1B 5JU, UK
- 5. King’s College London, Section of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, 16 De Crespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF, UK