Recovery From Depersonalisation and Derealisation

"Understanding Feelings of Unreality"

Sufferers of Depersonalisation or Derealisation feel divorced from both the world and from their own body. Often people who experience depersonalisation claim that life "feels like a dream", things seem unreal, or hazy; some say they feel detached from their own body. Another symptom of this condition can be the constant worrying or strange thoughts that people find hard to switch off.

People often say that no matter how hard they try, they don't feel like they can interact with the world around them. They feel a sense of detachment from their surroundings, finding it hard to talk and connect with others. Also they feel no love for the people closest to them and even question if they did a certain task or had a particular conversation. The most upsetting thing is they lose a sense of who they are and can't seem to perceive themselves as being normal.

Depersonalisation is a common and understandable offshoot of the anxiety condition. Before going further into depersonalisation, let me clear up one thing that I get asked often. “No, you are not going mad.” This feeling comes from being constantly worried about your own problems, it is not serious or harmful in any way and has a totally logical explanation. It is temporary and, with patience and understanding, eventually passes like any other symptom.

Depersonalisation occurs with anxiety because you are so used to watching yourself, questioning your illness, day in, day out, that you start to feel detached from the outside world. Your mind has become tired and less resilient through watching and worrying about your symptoms. It has been bombarded with worrying thoughts and becomes fatigued. When our limbs tire, they ache. When our mind tires, we feel these strange feelings of detachment from the world around us, experiencing an almost dreamlike state, convincing ourselves that we are going mad or losing it. You are not; your mind is just so very tired and just craves a rest from all this introspection of oneself.

When people are caught up in the worry cycle, they begin to think deeply and constantly. They study themselves from deep within, checking in and focusing on their symptoms. They may even wake in the morning only to continue this habit, “How do I feel this morning? “I wonder if I will be able to get through today”. What’s this new sensation I feel?” This may go on all day, exhausting their already tired mind further. This constant checking in and constant assessing of their symptoms then becomes a habit, but like all other habits this one can also be changed.

All this worry is bound to make your mind feel dull and unresponsive, You are so concerned about how you feel, that you are letting nothing else into your day, is it any wonder you have come to feel so distanced and detached from your surroundings? Is it any wonder you find it so hard to concentrate? Some people, when studying for exams for hours on end, get to the point where they can no longer take information in, so they take a break and carry on the day after. For you, there are no breaks and no time outs.

What a lot of people don’t know is that depersonalisation can occur in people without anxiety or panic issues. This can occur when someone has lost a loved one, been involved in an accident or maybe a recent shock. It is the body’s way of protecting you from all the worry or hurt you maybe feeling. This is normally temporary and when say the person grieving overcomes some of the hurt, the depersonalisation will fade. The trouble with anxiety is that people suffering have a tendency to worry and the depersonalisation comes along to protect you from all this stress and daily worry. People can then feel detached, empty or emotionless. What happens then though is people begin to then worry and obsess over this new feeling, thinking its something serious or they are going mad. They may even forget their anxiety and focus solely on this new feeling, this can lead to these feelings increasing. The unreality grows as we enter a cycle of worry and fear and so your body protects you with these feelings of unreality even more, making you feel more distanced and detached. It is the very worry and fear over this feeling that keeps you in the cycle.

The way to move forward out of depersonalisation is not to worry and obsess about it, but to work with it there, to give it as much space as it needs and not be too impressed by it. To see it as your body protecting you and not a sign that something terrible is happening or that you are going mad. This symptom is like any other and the more you worry or obsess about it, the bigger the problem can become and the longer you stay in the cycle. Below is one of many emails I receive from people who were convinced they would never find a way out of this condition.

I took some convincing that this was just an off-shoot of anxiety at the time when I was suffering, I thought this must be more serious. Now I know that it was caused by nothing more than a tired mind because I am living proof. I felt so detached that I could not read a book or follow a conversation. It was like taking part in some sort of movie, having to act my way through the day. I just could not connect with people or anything outside of my own little world. I now know that I was just in the habit of watching myself all day and was so concerned about how I felt and how I could get better, I had no interest in the outside world; my illness consumed me. I was living my life while at the same time watching myself and doing neither very well.

This symptom, like many others relies on your fear of it to keep it alive and this is the symptom I have been asked more than any other over the years. I do go in to far more detail in my book and explain how I was able to recover from this harmless yet disturbing symptom. This condition can really throw people into thinking it is something far worse than it really is. I myself found this feeling of detachment very hard to accept and understand, but when it was explained to me in full, in time I was able to rid myself of this symptom of anxiety.

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