Books and Films



Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder: A Mindfulness and Acceptance Guide to Conquering Feelings of Numbness and Unreality
July, 2010
Fugen Neziroglu (Author), Katharine Donnelly (Author), Daphne Simeon (Foreword)

Depersonalization: A New Look at a Neglected Syndrome

Mauricio Sierra, M.D., Ph.D, 2009
Mauricio Sierra, M.D., Ph.D., is a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK.

Overcoming Depersonalization and Feelings of Unreality
Anthony S. David, 2007
Anthony S. David, FRCP, FRCPsych, MD is Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry and the GKT School of Medicine, London.

Feeling Unreal: Depersonalization Disorder and the Loss of the Self
Daphne Simeon, MD and Jeffrey Abugel, 2006

Stranger To My Self
Inside Depersonalization: The Hidden Epidemic
Jeffrey Abugel, co-author of Feeling Unreal, 2011

The Stranger In The Mirror: Dissociation - The Hidden Epidemic

Marlene Steinberg, MD, Maxine Schnall, 2001
This book tends to have a greater focus on DID (formerly MPD) and trauma but provides an excellent description of the spectrum of dissociative disorders. This features the SCID-D (The Steinberg Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders).
Depersonalization Disorder is not Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).

Das Gefühl, ein NO-BODY zu sein: Depersonalisation, Dissoziation und Trauma
Berit Lukas, 2003
An excellent German book about Depersonalization, dissociation, and trauma. It includes a clear, concise approach to the topic as well as a wealth of footnotes, a detailed index, a glossary of terms, and an extensive bibliography.
An impressive scholarly work about those of us who are "Windmenschen" -- "people of the wind," who feel as insubstantial as a breath of air.
A wonderful, comprehensive source of information for both professionals and sufferers.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., 2006
Dissociation experienced by a young neuroscientist during a stroke. A story of courage and hope and a lesson in the plasticity of the brain -- the ability of the brain to heal.

From Chapter Four, "The Morning Of The Stroke", Page 38

"Immediately, I felt a powerful and unusual sense of dissociation roll over me. I felt so peculiar that I questioned my well-being. Even though my thoughts seemed lucid, my body felt irregular. As I watched my hands and arms [on my exercise machine] rocking forward and back, forward and back, in opposing synchrony with my torso, I felt strangely detached from my normal cognitive functions. It was as if the integrity of my mind/body connection had somehow become compromised.

Feeling detached from normal reality, I seemed to be witnessing my activity as opposed to feeling like the active participant performing the action. I felt as though I was observing myself in motion, as in playback of a memory. My fingers, as the grasped onto the handrail, looked like primitive claws ...

... I felt bizarre, as if my conscious mind was suspended somewhere between my normal reality and some esoteric space. Although this experience was somewhat reminiscent of my morning time in Thetaville, I was sure that this time I was awake. I felt as if I was trapped inside the perception of a meditation that I could neither stop nor escape ..."

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness
V. S. Ramachandran, MD, Ph.D., 2004

Phantoms In The Brain
V. S. Ramachandran, MD, Ph.D., and Sandra Blakeslee, 1998

10% Happier
Dan Harris, Journalist, 2014
Ten years ago Dan Harris had a panic attack on "Good Morning America" in front of millions of people. From that point on he sought out coping methods to help him deal with the “negative voices in the head" we all battle with.

The End Of Stress As We Know It

Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., 2002
"New research into how the brain works can help us understand the reactions our bodies have to various stressful circumstances. By recognizing the physiological function of stress -- also known as 'allostatic load' -- we can learn to live in a way that will limit the damage stress can cause to the body and brain. The insights offered by Dr. McEwen will motivate all of us to adopt a healthy new lifestyle."

Does Stress Damage The Brain?: Understanding Trauma-Related Disorders from a Mind-Body Perspective
J. Douglas Bremner, MD, 2002

Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression
Edited by Nell Casey, 2001

The Mind Within The Net, Models of Learning, Thinking, and Acting
Manfred Spitzer, MD, 1999

A Mood Apart, The Thinker's Guide to Emotion and Its Disorders
Peter C. Whybrow, MD, 1997

Coping With Trauma, A Guide to Self-Understanding
Jon G. Allen, Ph.D., 1995

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
Oliver Sacks, MD, 1987, or any book by this brilliant neurologist

Understanding The Borderline Mother
Christine Ann Lawson, Ph.D., 2000
This book is of particular interest to me, as there are indications my mother may have had Borderline Personality Disorder (which may soon be reclassified as a "Mood Dysregulation Disorder"). This can only be speculation in hindsight, but it seems to explain much of my mother's unpredictable behavior, rage, overwhelming need to control others, and her inability to maintain stable personal relationships.

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Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self

Suzanne Segal, 1998

An Unquiet Mind
Kay Redfield Jamison, Psy.D., 1995

Nobody Nowhere
Donna Williams, 1992

Darkness Visible
William Styron, 1990

A Hole in the World: An American Boyhood
Richard Rhodes, 1990


The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, 1971

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Joanne Greenberg, 1964
I believe the protagonist's diagnosis of schizophrenia is incorrect. I can't guess what is wrong with her, but she describes many perceptual distortions (in the more dramatic style of a novel) that seem very familiar to me.

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Some of the following films are based on an original book by the same title.
I am very critical about most films portraying mental illness. Many Hollywood productions perpetuate stereotypes and stigma and rarely refer to a primary need for medical treatment as well as therapy.

The films below are the most accurate and engrossing I have seen and I've left out many other excellent ones. There will certainly be more realistic upcoming productions to add to this list in the future.

I hate to say I'm becoming a bit jaded by Hollywood films in general these days; I prefer seeing independent films and documentaries.

The Soloist (2009, DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures)
Featuring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx.

I have to take back what I said above about Hollywood films and mental illness on this one. I was astounded at this realistic portrayal of schizophrenia and the absence of a “feel good” Hollywood ending.

This is a moving drama about the redemptive power of music. “Journalist Steve Lopez discovers Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a former classical music prodigy, playing his violin on the streets of L.A. As Lopez endeavors to help the homeless man find his way back, a unique friendship is formed, one that transforms both their lives.” The film is based on a true story.

Canvas (2007, Screen Media Films)

Featuring Joey Pantoliano, Marcia Gay Harden, and Devon Gearhart.

"When a mother's schizophrenia put herself and her family in jeopardy, her husband and son helplessly watch as she is torn from her family by police. Forced to raise a boy on his own and cope with his wife's mental illness, father and son learn to be what is truly family."
Inspired by writer/director Joe Greco’s life story. Mental illness hurts not only the individual who suffers a brain disorder but can destroy those near and dear including family and friends.

Trailer of "Canvas" -- a Joseph Greco Film
Courtesy of YouTube

Numb (2007, Insight Film Studios LTD)
Featuring Matthew Perry of "Friends" fame, this is the first mainstream Hollywood film addressing Depersonalization Disorder. The writer/director Harris Goldberg suffers from chronic depersonalization; the film is truly a slice of Mr. Goldberg’s own life.

"Screenwriter Hudson Milbank suffers from acute depersonalization disorder. So alienated from his own life that he makes the chronically depressed look perky, Hudson lives alone, watches The Golf Channel all day, can't hang on to a relationship, shoplifts in order to get his adrenalin up off the floor, fears that thinking about his dad's death will bring it to pass, loathes his mother, and in general, is as nutty as a crapshack in a peanut farm.

Obsessed with the underlying sadness that infuses his wretched existence, Hudson is a man in hell, but he thinks that his long catalogue of dismally unsatisfying and mutually self-destructive relationships is over when SARA stumbles into his life. He knows she can save him. She knows he has to save himself. Together they save each other.”

Trailer of "Numb" by Harris Goldberg
Courtesy of YouTube

Nearer My God To Thee (2005, Phenomenal World Cinema)
Documentary. An independent film by Marc Israel. "Suffering from [years of undiagnosed and debilitating depersonalization] ... filmmaker Marc Israel embarks on a desperate journey to Brazil to seek out famed healer and psychic surgeon John of God. Here Israel encounters not only this controversial 'Miracle Man' but, unavoidably, his own Self."

Crumb (1994, Sony Picture Classics)
Documentary. Cinematic portrait of the controversial comic book writer and his mentally ill mother and siblings.

Promise (1986, Hallmark Hall of Fame) with James Garner
and James Woods.

Movie for television. A painfully realistic dramatic portrayal of mental illness and its destructive effect on a family.

Nobody's Child: The Marie Balter Story
(1986, CBS TV Sunday Night Special) with Marlo Thomas.

Ordinary People (1980, Paramount) with Timothy Hutton,
Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland.

Dated somewhat by a dramatic psychoanalytic bent, but an important film to see. This film is truly a forgotten classic.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975, Facets)
with Jack Nicholson.

A must see classic.

Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter (1995) Documentary
by Deborah Hoffmann.

(PBS Broadcast)
I have a personal interest in this wonderful work, as my mother had Alzheimer's. This is an especially painful film for me as I wish I had a loving relationship with my mother. We actually got along better when she could no longer remember who I was.

"The first time my mother asked me, 'How exactly is it that we're related?' I was shocked," says filmmaker Deborah Hoffmann. In Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, a tender exploration of the tenacity of love and the meaning of memory, Hoffmann chronicles her growing understanding of her elderly mother's struggle with Alzheimer's disease ..."

"Born out of love and frustration, Hoffmann's directorial debut weaves together old photographs, home movies, and modern video footage to create a heartfelt, exceedingly intimate evocation of the enduring bond between two people.

Nominated for an Academy Award ®, winner of both the Teddy and Caligari awards at the Berlin Film Festival, the film also touched the hearts of many at the Sundance Film Festival and was voted Audience Favorite at San Francisco's Frameline Film Festival. The late Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel said, Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter is the best film about Alzheimer's disease that I've seen."

mag-no'-li-a (2000, New Line Cinema)
A Paul Thomas Anderson Picture.
A complex and moving drama that reminds us all children deserve respect and unconditional love.
"We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

Awakenings (1990, Columbia) with Robert De Niro
and Robin Williams.

A touching "neurological drama" based on the book by Oliver Sacks, MD. An excellent, moving film that demonstrates the complexity of the brain.

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