Support Our Sponsors -- Support Us!

Ad Info
TranceNet Home Page
[home] [research] [getting started] [law] [personal stories] [secrets] [news] [about Trancenet]

TranceNet: TM & Dissociation

Over the years there has been much discussion about the connection between the Transcendental Meditation terms Cosmic Consciousness and "witnessing," and the psychological states defined as depersonalization and dissociative disorders.

Below are pages 488-490 from DSM-IV, © 1994 American Psychiatric Association, Fourth Edition, Washington, D.C. -- the standard for diagnosis in the psychological, psychiatric, and counseling fields.

Many of the descriptions and criteria below match the verbal descriptions of short-, but more usually, long-term TM meditators.

We also include for comparison brief quotations from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary, Chapters 1-6, © 1967 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Penguin Books (1969), Middlesex, England.


The essential features of Depersonalization Disorder are persistent or recurrent episodes of depersonalization characterized by a feeling of detachment or estrangement from one's self (Criterion A). The individual may feel like an automaton or as if he or she is living in a dream or a movie. There may be a sensation of being an outside observer of one's mental processes, one's body, or parts of one's body. Various types of sensory anesthesia, lack of affective response, and a sensation of lacking control of one's actions, including speech, are often present. The individual with Depersonalization Disorder maintains intact reality testing (e.g., awareness that it is only a feeling and that he or she is not really an automaton) (Criterion B). Depersonalization is a common experience, and this diagnosis should be made only if the symptoms are sufficiently severe to cause marked distress or impairment in functioning (Criterion C). Because depersonalization is a common associated feature of many other mental disorders, a separate diagnosis of Depersonalization Disorder is not made if the experience occurs exclusively during the course of another mental disorder (e.g., Schizophrenia, Panic Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, or another Dissociative Disorder). In addition, the disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition (Criterion D).


Associated descriptive features and mental disorders. Often individuals with Depersonalization Disorder may have difficulty describing their symptoms and may fear that these experiences signify that they are "crazy." Derealization may also be present and is experienced as the sense that the external world is strange or unreal. The individual may perceive an uncanny alteration in the size or shape of objects (macropsia or micropsia), and people may seem unfamiliar or mechanical. Other common associated features include anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, obsessive rumination, somatic concerns, and a disturbance in one's sense of time. In some cases, the loss of feeling that is characteristic of depersonalization may mimic Major Depressive Disorder and, in other cases, may coexist with it. Hypochondriasis and Substance-Related Disorders may also coexist with Depersonalization Disorder. Depersonalization and derealization are very frequent symptoms of Panic Attacks. A separate diagnosis of Depersonalization Disorder should not be made when the depersonalization and derealization occur exclusively during such attacks.

Associated laboratory findings. Individuals with Depersonalization Disorder may display high hypnotizability and high dissociative capacity as measured by standardized testing.


Voluntarily induced experiences of depersonalization or derealization form part of meditative and trance practices that are prevalent in many religions and cultures and should not be confused with Depersonalization Disorder.


The lifetime prevalence of Depersonalization Disorder in community and clinical settings is unknown. At some time in their lives, approximately half of all adults may have experienced a single brief episode of depersonalization, usually precipitated by severe stress. A transient experience of depersonalization develops in nearly one- third of individuals exposed to life-threatening danger and in close to 40% of patients hospitalized for mental disorders.


Individuals with Depersonalization Disorder usually present for treatment in adolescence or adulthood, although the disorder may have an undetected onset in childhood. Because depersonalization is rarely the presenting complaint, individuals with recurrent depersonalization often present with another symptom such as anxiety, panic, or depression. Duration of episodes of depersonalization can vary from very brief (seconds) to persistent (years). Depersonalization subsequent to life- threatening situations (e.g., military combat, traumatic accidents, being a victim of a violent crime) usually develops suddenly on exposure to the trauma. The course may be chronic and marked by remissions and exacerbations. Most often the exacerbations occur in association with actual or perceived stressful events.


Depersonalization Disorder must be distinguished from symptoms that are due to the physiological consequences of a specific general medical condition (e.g., epilepsy) (see p. 165). This determination is based on history, laboratory findings, or physical examination. Depersonalization that is caused by the direct physiological effects of a substanceis distinguished from Depersonalization Disorder by the fact that a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse or a medication) is judged to be etiologically related to the depersonalization (see p. 192). Acute Intoxicationor Withdrawal from alcohol and a variety of other substances can result in depersonalization. On the other hand, substance use may intensify the symptoms of a preexisting Depersonalization Disorder. Thus, accurate diagnosis of Depersonalization Disorder in individuals with a history of alcohol- or substance-induced depersonalization should include a longitudinal history of Substance Abuse and depersonalization symptoms.

Depersonalization Disorder should not be diagnosed separately when the symptoms occur only during a Panic Attack that is part of Panic Disorder, Social or Specific Phobia, or Posttraumaticor Acute Stress Disorder. In contrast to Schizophrenia,intact reality testing is maintained in Depersonalization Disorder. The loss of feeling associated with depersonalization (e.g., numbness) may mimic a depression. However, the absence of feeling in individuals with Depersonalization Disorder is associated with other manifestations of depersonalization (e.g., a sense of detachment from one's self) and occurs even when the individual is not depressed.


A. Persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of, one's mental processes or body (e.g., feeling like one is in a dream).

B. During the depersonalization experience, reality testing remains intact.

C. The depersonalization causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

D. The depersonalization experience does not occur exclusively during the course of another mental disorder, such as Schizophrenia, Panic Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, or another Dissociative Disorder, and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., temporal lobe epilepsy).


This category is included for disorders in which the predominant feature is a dissociative symptom (i.e., a disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment) that does not meet the criteria for any specific Dissociative Disorder. Examples include

1. Clinical presentations similar to Dissociative Identity Disorder that fail to meet full criteria for this disorder. Examples include presentations in which a) there are not two or more distinct personality states, or b) amnesia for important personal information does not occur.

2. Derealization unaccompanied by depersonalization in adults.

3. States of dissociation that occur in individuals who have been subjected to periods of prolonged and intense coercive persuasion (e.g., brainwashing, thought reform, or indoctrination while captive).

4. Dissociative trance disorder: single or episodic disturbances in the state of consciousness, identity, or memory that are indigenous to particular locations or cultures. Dissociative trance involves narrowing of awareness of immediate surroundings or stereotyped behaviors or movements that are experienced as being beyond one's control. Possession trance involves replacement of the customary sense of personal identity by a new identity, attributed to the influence of a spirit, power, deity, or other person, and associated with stereotyped "involuntary" movements or amnesia. Examples include amok (Indonesia), bebainan (Indonesia), latah (Malaysia), piblotoq (Arctic), ataque de nervois (Latin America), and possession (India). The dissociative or trance disorder is not a normal part of a broadly accepted collective cultural or religious practice. (See p. 727 for suggested research criteria).

5. Loss of consciousness, stupor, or coma not attributable to a general medical condition.

6. Ganser syndrome: the giving of approximate answers to questions (e.g., "2 plus 2 equals 5") when not associated with Dissociative Amnesia or Dissociative Fugue.

Related Quotes from On the Bhagavad-Gita


In nitya-samadhi, or cosmic consciousness ... a man realizes that his Self is different from the mind which is engaged in thoughts and desires.... He experiences the desires of the mind as lying outside himself....

This state of life is ... uninvolved with activity....
op. cit., pps.150-151.

Lack of Control of Actions

When one has gained Union with Being and disunion from the field of activity [in Cosmic Consciousness], the "I" ceases to assume authorship of actions and therefore ceases to be bound by their fruits. All action is automatically passed on to the Lord of creation.

...One experiences one's Self as aloof from activity and recognizes It as non-doer, even though one is engaged in action. In this state one attributes all activity to the power of the Almighty underlying the gunas [the primal tendencies of Nature], their divisions and their actions. One remains fixed in the Self, while the Lord is recognized as the author of all actions....
op. cit., pps. 225-226

Lack of Emotions or Affective Response

One who practices transcendental meditation experiences the bliss which fills the heart and brings eternal contentment, which leave no room for any negative emotion, for sorrow, depression, fear or the like. Neither does it leave room for waves of joy or other positive emotions because the heart is by nature full and contented....

The experience of transcendental consciousness raises a man's consciousness to a level where he find his Self completely separate from all activity.... The normal behavior of a man of steady intellect [in Cosmic Consciousness] ... appears different and more than normal -- unshaken by pleasure and pain, fear and anger.
op. cit., pps. 154-155.

Outside Observer

The man whose mind is established in the Unity of bliss-consciousness knows by experience that his Self is separate from all activity. He acts in the field of relativity, but experience cannot make any deep impression.
op. cit., pps. 155-156.

Sensory Anesthesia

The established intellect [in Cosmic Consciousness] has, in fact, little to do with the activity or non-activity of the senses. op. cit., p. 158.

[ return to Research Archive ]

[ continue to Analysis ]

top ]

[home] [research] [getting started] [law] [personal stories] [secrets] [news] [about Trancenet]

Internet Link Exchange
Member of the Internet Link Exchange

This page was last built with Frontier on a Macintosh on Wed, Feb 26, 1997 at 12:41:26 PM.