Depersonalisation or Derealisation as its also known is a symptom of Anxiety.
I feel that it is important to provide an explanation of what this is and what it feels like as it is often the symptom that seems to scare people the most where they are working through their own journey with Anxiety.
It can be difficult to describe unless you have felt it. I did suffer this symptom myself over different periods of time during my own journey through Anxiety symptoms and Panic Attacks. Personally, I did find it very frightening and disorentatating especially as I was not aware of what was happening to me.
By trying to provide you with an explanation, I am hoping to remove some of the questions and fear from this symptom so that you are able to stand back from the way you are feeling with the knowledge that you are safe and you may feel a little bit weird but you will be ok.
It often feels quite disturbing and not real. The best way I can describe it is to say it's a feeling like:
- You're not "really here"
- You just feel really odd and not yourself
- It's a feeling of unreality like a mind fog like you are not connected to the world anymore
- Like you are losing touch with reality
- Like you are in a dream
- Like you are detached from the world and your surroundings
- Feeling really isolated like you are completely alone
What it actually is, put quite simply is a comfort blanket that your mind has placed over you to protect you from the Anxiety that you are going through.
Yes you did read that correctly. Derealisation is genuinely a protective measure, intended to help you and not hurt you.
It manifests as a combination of physical sensations, emotions and thoughts acting together, which cause you to feel so strange and detached from your surroundings that you actually can begin to wonder if you are actually still in your own body.
You are so "living in your head" that you seem to lose all connections with the outside world. This is often the symptom that makes people believe that they are actually going crazy.
It means the same as any other symptom or sensation, it means you are having suffering from Anxiety and it has absolutely nothing to do with losing control or entering the world of "crazy mad people"
All of your panic symptoms mean the same thing, even though some are easier to handle than others. Some symptoms are physical, some emotional and some thought generated, but they mean just that you are feeling fear and in perceived danger that is all. They are just different ways of experiencing the same reaction.
Why does this happen to you?
The symptom occurs because you are so focused on your Anxiety and trying to both solve it and prevent it. You stop focusing outwards (Living in the moment with normal function) and focus inwards (monitoring yourself, your moods and feelings, on alert awaiting Anxiety).
This constant focus creates more stress and overloads your mind. You begin to feel detached from the outside world as you have lost your focus on it and along with that you mind is overloaded and enters a fog. It then enters this symptom as a means of protecting itself and you.
What can you do while it is happening?
Firstly, it is productive to understand that while the experience of Depersonalisation is uncomfortable and feels frightening, it is a protective measure and it is not dangerous.
What you must do to help yourself is to make the experience as comfortable as you can. Anxiety will persist if you are resisting it, so try to carry on with normal activities while you wait for the episode to pass over.
Normal living will equal normal life,
- Acknowledge its here and accept its happening (you don't have to like it)
- Learn that although it does not feel comfortable it is not life threatening danger and will pass in time, just like all the other panic symptoms
- Take your attention away and return to the present environment and the task in hand, don't fight to do this just re focus
- Become engaged with the new task, or people around you. As you become more engaged you will notice the symptoms start to fade this may take days or perhaps weeks, but it will pass over when you remove your fear of it and re focus.
Derealisation can occur in people even when they don't have a problem with Anxiety. It can occur in response to a number of situations such as the death of a loved one, or to someone who has had a shock or been involved in an accident, That should show you that it's a protective measure. You can still have this symptom even when you are not going through a period of anxiety.
It will go away but how quickly this happens depends on how much focus you place on it and how much you resist the symptom.