Online structured dance/movement therapy reduces bodily detachment in depersonalization-derealization disorder

Millman, L.S. Merritt; Hunter, Elaine C.M.; Terhune, Devin Blair and Orgs, Guido. 2023. Online structured dance/movement therapy reduces bodily detachment in depersonalization-derealization disorder. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 51, 101749. ISSN 1744-3881 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Background: Depersonalization-derealization disorder (DDD) is a dissociative disorder encompassing pronounced disconnections from the self and from external reality. As DDD is inherently tied to a detachment from the body, dance/movement therapy could provide an innovative treatment approach.

Materials and Methods: We developed two online dance tasks to reduce detachment either by training body awareness (BA task) or enhancing the salience of bodily signals through dance exercise (DE task). Individuals with DDD (n=31) and healthy controls (n=29) performed both tasks individually in a cross-over design. We assessed symptom severity (Cambridge Depersonalization Scale), interoceptive awareness (Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness – II), mindfulness (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire), and body vigilance (Body Vigilance Scale) before, during and after the tasks.

Results: At baseline, individuals with DDD exhibited elevated depersonalization-derealization symptoms alongside lower levels of interoceptive awareness and mindfulness compared to controls. Both tasks reduced symptoms in the DDD group, though dance exercise was perceived as easier. The DE task increased mindfulness in those with DDD more than the BA task, whereas controls showed the opposite pattern. In the DDD group, within-subject correlations showed that lower levels of symptoms were associated with task-specific elevations in interoceptive awareness and mindfulness.

Conclusion: Individual and structured dance/movement practice, performed at home without an instructor present, offers an effective tool to reduce symptoms in DDD and can be tailored to address specific cognitive components of a mindful engagement with the body.

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This research received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 864420 - Neurolive - PI Guido Orgs).


depersonalization-derealization disorder; interoception; psychotherapy; mindfulness; dissociative disorders; dance/movement therapy

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26 March 2023Accepted
3 April 2023Published Online

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Date Deposited:

12 Apr 2023 10:54

Last Modified:

13 Apr 2023 02:06

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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