Are you suffering from depersonalization or derealization… or both?
The medical community loves complicated words. Sometimes these words make sense, and sometimes they make you wonder who came up with them. Fortunately, the terms depersonalization (DP) and derealization (DR) are of the former category. They actually do give you an idea of the underlying illness.
Nevertheless, when you first encounter these words, you may be confused. You may wonder, “Do I have depersonalization or derealization? Or do I have both?”
Such questions are very common for anyone suffering from DP/DR. In this article, I hope to clear up the confusion for you.
Before we proceed, let’s look at the dictionary definitions of the terms depersonalization and derealization:
- Depersonalization: A psychopathological syndrome characterized by loss of identity and strangeness about one’s own behavior
- Derealization: An alteration in the perception or experience of the external world so that it seems unreal.
These dictionary definitions paint a decent picture of DP/DR, but I think we can further simplify them. Here’s my easy-to-understand definition of depersonalization and derealization.
- Depersonalization: A dissociative disorder characterized by an alteration in the perception of one’s sense of self.
- Derealization: A dissociative disorder characterized by an alteration in the perception of one’s environment.
These personal definitions, I believe, paint a succinct and accurate picture.
When you feel as though you are not yourself, or you feel as though you are watching a movie about yourself, then you may be experiencing depersonalization.
And when you feel as if you are living in a dream world, or when your environment looks strange or unreal, then that can be a sign of derealization.
One or Both?
Most often, people who experience one of these disorders will experience the other to a certain degree.
For example, someone might have a constant feeling of watching themselves from a third-person perspective (depersonalization), while they may from time to time feel that their surroundings are unreal (derealization).
When I suffered from these illnesses, I experienced both of them intensely. I’d feel not like myself at all, and also I’d look outside and feel like something was off about my environment. Since these illnesses almost always occur together, you’ll see me referring to this disorder as depersonalization/derealization or DP/DR.
On the other hand, I have talked to clients who experience just one of these disorders strongly and experience none or very little of the other.
A Mystery Illness
No one really knows the underlying mechanism by which depersonalization and derealization produce their respective alterations in perception.
What we do know is that these are dissociative disorders. When we get overwhelmed with a lot of stress or there is sudden or ongoing trauma, our mind and body may need to dissociate to prevent emotional overwhelm.
Such dissociation is said to bring about changes in perception of self and one’s surroundings.
When the body and mind no longer feel the need to dissociate (when the trauma has been processed or the stress levels have been brought down considerably), then you may start to feel normal again. That is, you may start to experience a normal sense of self and may start to perceive your environment without any weird alterations.
The Path to Recovery
Whether you experience depersonalization or you feel derealization, or you experience them both equally, it doesn’t really matter. The path to recovery is the same.
A cure starts with the right understanding. I’d say educate yourself about this condition. Read all the articles on this website, watch my YouTube videos, or if you need a step-by-step guide, consider checking out DP No More – my online course that has helped many people find relief from DP/DR.
Once you’ve grasped what DP/DR is, then start by practicing acceptance. Until now, you may be unconsciously fighting and resisting these feelings. Doing so is actually increasing your stress level and keeps your depersonalization and derealization going.
Learn the fundamentals of recovering from depersonalization/derealization. There is no separate recovery process for each of them; there is only one path to recovery for both these illnesses.
Don’t spend too much time wondering whether you have one or the other or both. Instead, spend your time working on hobbies. Engage in your normal everyday activities, even if you feel debilitated. This will help you in your recovery.
I want to assure you that many of us have recovered from DP/DR. Your story is going to be no different. Even though depersonalization and derealization produce some strange and scary symptoms, they are ultimately not harmful. They are simply just weird and unpleasant, but not dangerous.
Once you fully recover from depersonalization and derealization, you’ll feel like your normal self and the world around you won’t feel dreamy or unreal.
Credits: Some images are from Pixabay