Bowen Yang’s ‘depersonalization’ struggle points to a real disorder

When Bowen Yang recently announced that he was pausing production on his “Las Culturistas” podcast, he didn’t offer the usual reason that celebrities give when they talk about needing to take time off due to stress or “exhaustion.”

Instead, the “Saturday Night Live” star was more specific and said on Instagram Story that he was suffering from “bad bouts of depersonalization,” as Rolling Stone and other outlets reported.

Yang, 32, said the bouts were causing deep distress and that he was “doing my best to get better!” That’s why, he said, he needed to take a break from “Las Culturistas,” the popular pop culture podcast he has co-hosted with comedian Matt Rogers since 2016.

It turns out that Yang’s situation — “depersonalization” — isn’t some condition he made up. He’s likely referring to a disorder that’s listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition.

It’s a type of a dissociative disorder, in which people have problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior and sense of self, the American Psychiatric Association said on its website. With depersonalization disorder, a person experiences a sense of detachment from one’s mind, self or body. People may feel as if they are outside their bodies and watching events happening to them. They also may be aware of reality and that their experience is unusual.

Symptoms may begin in early childhood, the association said. The average age a person first experiences the disorder is 16.

The disorder is largely considered to be related to sustained trauma and severe stress, Rolling Stone reported. Yang, the first Chinese-American cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and one of the show’s first openly gay stars, has opened up in a interviews with Rolling Stone, the New York Times and People about his experience attending gay conversion therapy when he was younger, at the request of his Chinese immigrant parents.

“It was a cultural thing for them, this cultural value around masculinity, around keeping the family line going, keeping certain things holy and sacred,” Yang told the New York Times in 2020. “It was me wanting to meet them halfway but realizing it had to be pretty absolute. It was an either-or thing. There was not that much middle ground.”

Yang told Rolling Stone last month about how he’s still trying to deal with the impact of the therapy.

“I still have to pull that part of myself, turn it at a different angle, and understand it a different way,” Yang said. “I think ultimately that made me value and, in a literal sense, appreciate what I’m able to withstand and survive. You get this sense that you can overcome. I know that sounds kind of dramatic, but I think nowadays that’s pretty important. If I can anecdotally even be like, “Well, I went through this thing, so I’m sure I can get through a hard day on set” — not that those two things are comparable at all — it puts a frame around why you do what you do.”

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘁

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