Philosophical and existential thoughts during a depersonalization episode are no joke. They rattle the very core of your being. No one knows where these thoughts come from. But all hope is not lost.
At first, it starts as a benign thought. Something like “What is existence?” or “Is the universe subjective or objective?” Then it starts getting abstract and weird. “How can I hear my own thoughts?” “Am I now the same person I was when I was young?” “What is this planet, really?” “Am I really in control of my thoughts?” Then, lo and behold, you are caught up in a cascade of scary thoughts about whether you are real or someone’s imagination, and then suddenly, the tables turn and you terrifyingly begin to wonder whether other people really exist or not.
Existential thoughts during a depersonalization episode are no joke. They rattle the very core of your being. No one knows where these thoughts come from. Suddenly, you feel like you are peering through a crack in the universe and you do not like what you see. You feel like you are losing control with these questions.
I have always been an inquisitive child. Since an early age, I’ve been fascinated with the universe. I’d watch a lot of documentaries about black holes, supernovas, and quantum theory as a kid. I really liked to learn and know more about the universe.
Then came the age of introspection when I was in my early twenties. I got interested in mysticism, spirituality, philosophy, and psychology. That got me thinking more about our inner worlds. The more I read these topics, the broader my overall worldview became.
It was as if I was looking at existence from a higher perspective, all zoomed out. It made for a richer life.
I ventured more and more into the mysteries with nothing but curiosity. Fear was nowhere close. The words anxiety, panic, or insanity were never ever in my lexicon.
Then, over a few quick months, I was overcome with anxiety and became depersonalized. Everything changed in a matter of months. I have written at length about my depersonalization story before; please read it if you are interested.
I found myself becoming obsessed with certain kind of questions. Those that dealt with existence became the center of my thinking. But, by now, I was in the grips of extreme fear.
You see, previously, it was I who had to exert control to think of such deep questions. But now, it seemed as if that they were coming at me from every corner. It felt like I had no idea who was in charge of coming up with all these questions.
Needless to say, I was really worried about my own mental sanity. Every morning, I would commute to work in absolute dread not knowing what existential question would “attack” me that day.
Once, when I was all by myself in the bathroom at work, I looked at myself in the mirror and suddenly the question “How do I exist?” popped into my head. It sent shivers up my spine so badly that when I got back to work and had to meet with a colleague of mine, I was terribly shaking inside. I tried my best not to show any discomfort on the surface.
Then the questions multiplied. They came from all directions. All day long, my thoughts were about existence, other realms, demons, hell, and plenty of other uncommon, bizarre topics.
It wasn’t just a preoccupation with philosophical questions. Sometimes, what would trouble me would be series of thoughts like “Maybe other people are just a product of my own imagination” or “I am probably going to wake up as an alien, and this is all just a dream I am having.”
The existential questions and bizarre philosophical thoughts that one encounters when depersonalized can give any philosophy graduate a run for his or her money. It turns any commoner who was never ever interested in philosophy into somewhat of a mad scholar, constantly questioning everything including their own selfhood and the nature of reality in which they exist.
This can be really troubling to someone who has no background in such thinking. All of a sudden, one may feel like he or she is on the brink of insanity. Such constant obsession with deep but unusual thoughts can lead one away from normal life. It can make one afraid of being alone, even in the comfort of his or her own room.
But not all hope is lost.
You Are Not Alone
No one really understands why depersonalized people suffer from a deluge of philosophical and sometimes nonsensical thoughts. But we do know one thing: we are not alone in experiencing this phenomenon.
You can rest assured that thousands of people are having the exact same thoughts as you and don’t know what to do with it.
You may ask, “How is that supposed to make me feel good?” to which I can only say, “I am not sure.” You can try finding solace in the fact that what you thought was a strange syndrome that is only happening to you is actually something that is shared a large number of people. Existential and strange philosophical questioning is one of the hallmark symptoms of depersonalization.
What to Do with Such Thoughts
What really changed my relation to these questions was that, over time, I found that none of my worst fears (losing my mind or dissolving into nothingness) came true. When I became assured of my own safety, I followed my intuition and began inching closer to these questions instead of trying to run away from them.
When I did that, suddenly the fear started diminishing. I remembered how inquisitive I was as a child and how I would often want to find out more about the universe and nature, without worry or fear.
I tried to make use of this curiosity and started playing with these questions. I told myself it was okay to have existential questions like “What exactly is reality?” or “Who is thinking these thoughts?” I realized that though these thoughts were stuck in my head, they could never harm me.
I began looking at them as some sort of a gift. A gift that a few of us have been given, even though we did not ask for it. A gift that enables us to ask the deepest questions about nature, reality, and selfhood.
The great mystics of ages past and the most prominent scientific and philosophical minds of current times have all asked the same questions or toyed with ideas similar to what goes through the mind of a depersonalized person. Many people spend years practicing meditation or indulge in long hours of reading to achieve the state of reflection and thinking that we have been offered free of charge.
Yes, it troubles us. These questions and thoughts can torment us, but only if viewed as something harmful. Once you realize that your mind and sanity are safe and secure, you can start to accept these deep, existential, philosophical questions and go towards them instead of running away.
We can engage with them to the extent we feel drawn. It helps us broaden our understanding of the world and about ourselves. By considering them as a gift and examining such questions, we can turn these fearful questions and insights into a potential tool for our self-actualization.
Some say depersonalization is just enlightenment’s evil twin. I don’t think that’s far from the truth.
- Opening Image – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/13991433420/
Ever had ‘I’m living in a simulation’ thought?
It’s really dam scary. Help.
I feel you, I have the same thing. Stay strong
Sean Degan says
Hi Tom. I sure have. It is an intense experience. Scary, confusing and isolating. But it passes sooner or later. Send me an email if you would like to talk more about it.
Sorry for some mistakes. English is not my mother language. Last 2 months i’ve been feeling strange. I’m not sure is it a dp dr disorder or what. I’m so scared. I’m having OCD intrusive thoughts since i was 12 and now i’m 26. I always tried to fight it with some rituals (words, moves like some kid of defense mechanism) but i’ve been trying to break free sooo hard. I’ve never visited doctor and. Anyway as i said 2 months ago i was thinking about thought and how not to react to bad ones and i kind of became obsessed with them. I was thinking about them all the time and i couldn’t be relaxed, in fact all that made me even more anxious and nervous.. Then i realized that i can’t fight them and that they are in out heads all the time and became scared and couldn’t think easily. Then one day i started having that kind of stupid questions like what are thoughts and how they come to us. And one day everything became strange to me. My sister face, people on the street…Stupid questions came to my mind like what are we? why are we looking like that? I felt like i fell from the other planet directly on Earth. I can’t describe that awful feeling! I felt like i’m going crazy! Than i started having that philosophical questions/thoughts which no one can answer (about life and world and people…). And i’m aware of that but i just can’t stop them. I also can’t talk like i did before because it feels different. It feels like i’m observing everything i do and every word i say or someone says. Like i’m questioning what does that word means, how funny that word sounds and it drives me crazy! I can’t do anything like before! I feel terrible and something chokes me. I don’t know if i described it well but i hope someone understands what i mean.
Swamy G says
Hello Ann, those are very much the symptoms of DP/DR. I experienced most of what you are going through, including OCD questions such as “where do thoughts come from?” or thoughts like “people’s faces look weird” etc. At first, it’s ok to be scared about this experience. It is definitely something only a very few percentage of the population experience. The fear is normal. But through time, you must learn not to fight these feelings since that fighting keeps the fear cycle going. I’ve detailed in other blog posts how to accept anxiety and not fight it, I hope those posts help you out.
Oh my gosh THIS IS ME. This is me!!! Non stop 24/7 and I’m not exaggerating. Did you get through this? I feel like I’ve read so many blogs that nothing will help at this point. And I came from new age spirituality into Christian thinking, this is what happened just before this all started. I can’t even talk or Be normal and social / talking is absolute nightmare. I crumble even talking with my own family which feels so horrible 🙁
Did you make it through? I don’t know how to get through this…
I totally get this, too, and it’s still happening, though diminishing.
A few months ago it was so bad that someone would just say “good” and I would have this visceral discomfort and be inclined to start sobbing. Why does g-o-o-d mean anything? Why do I know what it means? Why do we all have this shared understanding of what it means? Wait, do I know what it means? It’s so weird and disconcerting.
For a week or two, I was literally sitting around all day (and crying) like a depressed person (which I was) except I couldn’t even consume any media because it scared me too much because it all involved words. One time my mom told me to listen to an audiobook and after a few minutes I started screaming because I was just so overwhelmed by wOrDs and whether I was understanding and what understanding is and how we conceptualize the universe and how the emotions described in the actual story/book were so far from what I’d experienced in a long time and unsure of whether I’d be able to experience again, etc. etc, and how upset I was that I can’t even listen to a simple audiobook when just a few months before I was an all A college student reading complex texts and annotating complex stories and joking around & talking with my friends and family everyday. I totally get the experience of crumbling just talking to anyone about anything, even with my own family, even with just a few brief words exchanged at the grocery store with the cashier.
This all being said, I still am dealing with this word “problem”, but it’s getting better. It helps knowing it’s all connected to DP/DR rather than some unknown condition. I am able to have pretty normal conversations with my family again, though the word-anxiety will still creep up, sometimes ferociously. I can read books again without freaking out and annotate them, though it’s still not as good of an experience as I would like and the intrusive “why did that mean anything/am I understanding?” will still pop up, just I’m managing it better and it’s less scary now. I’m even able to watch some Simpsons episodes and laugh at jokes~ revolutionary, I know! So I’m still struggling quite a bit, but I am seeing improvement.
Oh and I totally have a ton of other DP/DR symptoms (mostly DR I’d say), but they’re also going down.
There was a long period of time where I basically did not sleep, even with an excess of benzos that should make a person conk out, but now I can fall asleep naturally again and sleep through the entire night like I used to.
I’m definitely still quite messed up and not where I want to be, but now looking back, it’s good to acknowledge the progress I’ve made.
May I ask you how long did it take for you to get over with those thoughts. For me after 5 month of crazy depersonalization and derealization. I felt like my senses are back, just those thoughts, still feel like I can do nothing about it.
Swamy G says
I get asked this question a lot and I understand why people want to know how long it takes for a complete recovery. But I don’t share my timeline since it is very different for everyone. Comparing yours to mine will only make you worry more. Rest assured, if you follow advice on this blog and just accept the DP and continue to live and engage with life, you will recover fully eventually.
Hi , thank you for this article. It really reassured me.
The thing is even though i know those thoughts can do no harm, they trouble me so much that everything feels unreal; even like i’ve never seen humans before. It makes so little sense to me that we are here and live in reality that i start feeling unreal. It is so scary. I dont know what to do anymore I cant enjoy anything.
What’s the point of being alive if you can’t live???? This is what I asked myself day in day out, I felt like and still do feel out of range with my self as if I was living life on a tight rope. I often thought will this drive me to take my own life ? Yesssss that’s how bad it gets for me anyway ….. but I think of my children my baby’s and I remember what holds me down ….
It really is frightening and depressing. Avicii took his life suffering from this.
Swamy G says
He may have suffered from DP symptoms but I do not think he decided to end his life because of these symptoms. He had other problems. I can’t be 100% sure but I think that he felt his life lacked meaning. He was suffering from depression more than DP/DR.
Brandon S. says
Hey, I think I have this. I think DP and those existential thoughts are the reason I spend so much time on electronics (I.e. my phone, computer). It really helps cope with my these “attacks” it sort of shelters me from the reality and it keeps me in the mindset that I’m okay. Whenever I get these thoughts I don’t feel like life is real and then I start thinking about death which scares me. Anyways I’m still researching this so I may or may not have it but it sounds very similar.
hey man .
about an year ago i was try weed for the first time and that was The biggest mistake of my life.after two day i began to feel weird and anxious in general.
fast forward I started having existential thoughts Mostly what consciousness is? who am i ? What makes me me ? And all kinds of existential questions whose content is mainly about who I am or what am I? he anxiety levels were huge until I couldn’t function at all day I was in bed barely eating . I went to a psychiatrist and he prescribed me Escitalopram 10 mg pills and after few Months 20 mg . Today I am in such a state That my existence is stressing and horrifying to me. And I don’t know what to do about it How to shake it off .
Is it at all depersonalizing??! or just I got stuck in a state of madness!
It’s like I think only I know who I am and the feeling is lonely in myself if that makes sense
any suggestions What can I do?
It is all the DP/DR I just turned 22 the day you replied. I can tell you DR/DP is gone. You can be cured it takes time, It is a hell I felt that too. I forced myself toomuch. Be calm and God is going to get you through this. I suffered several months but I was also anxious and got the thoughts too.
It is going to pass this aweful storm!
I had a very similar experience with weed about half a year ago. I ended up admitting myself to the hospital because I seriously thought I was going insane and I was this close to suicide. I promise it gets better. I’m still dealing with lingering anxiety and depression from the depersonalization, but I can live my life without feeling detached from my self or obsessed over existentialism, something I would not have believed possible a couple of months ago. What helped me the most was giving it as little attention as possible, no matter how much it nagged me. This means keeping your mind occupied 24/7. Focus on your job, your schoolwork. Pick up an involved hobby like playing the piano or video games. One thing that I found extremely helpful was keeping headphones on me at all times. Listening to music was an easy escape that gave me something to think about. Another thing you should do is avoid talking about or researching depersonalization or your symptoms. All it did for me was give it unneeded attention. I began doing that about 3 months ago and it paid off, I promise. About a month or two ago I reached a point where it felt like life was worth living. It wasn’t some big realization or anything, more of a slow fade back into reality. I promise you can get better. It’ll take some dedication and you have to be 100% committed to adjusting your behavior, but if you do, you will escape this.
Hi — I can relate to this so much. I have a history of existential type OCD and every day i look around and obsess over : “who am i” “who’s inside of me?” “is this real” and then i get so panicked i literally don’t know what to do with myself. I’ll look around and I’m like “is this really all here? what is this?” … Sometimes I wonder, did i die? or is this a figure of my imagination. (the pandemic didn’t help with his, mind you). Now I can’t even drive lately without these thoughts and feeling completely detached and then I become panicked.
I try and accept them but its just so hard. Now its just become my own “world” and like i actually believe it… its hard to explain.
Hoping to get into a psych soon… but in the mean time I’m debilitated with his.
Any recent updates on your coping? Can you relate?
Did you get better with this? If so, how?? DP did this to me too!
shawn clements says
I know this is an old post but if your still suffering klonopin was a huge help in stabilizing my thoughts.. then my doc added abilify and it was like I was normal again! I too was triggered by both weed and taking mushrooms. I battled for over 20 years till I got on those meds*
*Please consult your doctor before using any medication.
I had this BAD… like bad I almost took my life because I thought ..!
How can anyone give me an answer if they are not real? Or even if I read positive article like this one … I’d say well they are just trying to convince me it’s a mental disorder to hide the truth from me!!
Like I said I was bad! But turns out
We just have a dirty intestine and just need some Saint John wort … vitamin D3
And fiber to clean your intestines and start eating healthy and take probiotics!!
And honestly truly I tell you it disappeared and you come to answer all your questions and anxiety/ panics are GONE FOR GOOD!!
Did you recover from this? If so, how? Same feelings here!
Hey, my story is: smoking weed for 10 years mostly every day. Started dabbling with magic mushrooms around a year ago and was loving the experiences, felt like i was connecting more with my life and people. One day 4 weeks ago i did a small microdose of mushrooms and found myself in a weird strange state where i wasn’t tripping or anything i was just unable to do anything i could do previously, like sit and watch tv, play video games or sit on my computer etc, its as if i was stripped of all dopamine and seratonin, leaving me empty and souless for 6 hours, so i kept smoking joints to try and relax. Which must have only made my brain overthink more, i started worrying ‘there is so much time and i can’t enjoy any of it, am i going to be like this forever’ which scared me into a state of anxiety i had never experienced. Anyhow, i made it till night time and relied on a good sleep to sort it, yet i woke up and it all came back within 10 minutes of waking up. First time ever a sleep has not solved worries for me. Anyhow, for the next 4 days i was in a weird state of not being able to look at anything, do anything or communicate properly, i was pacing around my house moving rooms and trying my best to get through time as it was agony. These 4-6 days felt like a month. Sleep was broken by vivid dreams and sleep felt weird as anything. No idea what was happening, but after being given some homeopathic remedy, i felt a bit normal after 5 days and was a glimmer of hope, i could watch stuff without my brain shutting off, mild concentration was returning. By the 7th day i thought i was comoletely back to normal, laughing with friends and stuff. That night on i celebrated with smoking a joint in bed for the first time since feeling bad, all was fine while i was watching a video (about the pandemic conspiracy stuff which i have always been into) it struck something in me, a deep contemplating thought, that sent me into my very first panic attack I have ever experienced, like a bolt of light in my head. Arms and knees went weak instantly, i turned off the tv, heart racing, and just went downstairs to lay with my dogs for comfort. That night i had full insomnia with everytime reaching the point of going to sleep i awoke from a hypnic jilt (jolting awake as if you are falling or sliding). From here on it wasn’t physically as intense as the initial 4 day period of being stripped of all dopamine etc but i felt extremely weird, i was more able to do things but not without my brain playing games, it would avert and hide from topics, it would be highly analytical but shy from thinking abstractly, i had no interest in conversations, i was hoping it was going to pass. But over the course of three weeks it kept coming and going in waves – my sleep was still messed up, i would wake up with sensitivity to light and foggy headed, making everything seem like i was disconnected and not rooted in reality… This must have led my already deep thinking philosophical brain to slowly start contemplating scary things as time went on, but instead of thinking from a distance, i would feel them in my bones. Like looking at my neighbourhood and going ‘ive seen this place everyday’ and then it would just make me feel weird. Random flashes of loved ones eyes as if ‘do i really know this person’ flickering thoughts of ‘the truman show’ film and ‘matrix’. All would send my limbs a bit weak ans make me feel deeply uneasy. It mainly started out as watching anything on t.v i would start thinking in the point of view of a character ‘nobody is happy, he just pretending, they are deeply disturbed’ etc. Shit like that, and ‘what is the point, eveything is meaningless’ ‘there is too much time’ i would look at a period drama ‘these lot had nothing to do at all, except talk to eachother about nothing’ it would hurt me deep. I dont know why. Family members I would picture them and it had the potential to disturb me. Another example I recall feeling fine and seeing someone come out of macdonalds with a bag. They looked a bit strange, and my thoughts just went instantly ‘this person is in the matrix, guzzling junk food as a distraction’ and it made me uneasy for an hour after. Anyway i feel i have it under better control and its been 3 weeks since the panic attack and 4 weeks since the initial epsode. I went to a herbal medicine expert and have been taking natural remedy, completely resisted the urge to take doctor prescriptions such as antidepressants or sleep pills. I am sleeping 6 to 7 hours okay without vivid dreams now and wake up a bit better each day, still have a foggy head here and there and the odd existential or matrix thought each day that doesn’t send me into a panic or anxiety attack it just makes me feel uneasy. My heart started racing as i was writing this but i felt like maybe it might help someone and maybe help make me see the state for what it really is… Which is a state of mind that is fueled by your brains survival mechanisms.
Homeopathic remedies i have taken is: Arsenicum Album 30c i definitely think this subdued the thoughts. Maybe try argent nit 30c or AAA 30c also. Or Indica 30c.
Bach Flower remedies 2 drops each in a glass each day:
White chestnut – for unwanted and intrusive thoughts
Star of bethlehem
Look into other flower remedies this is the mixture i decided was right.
Herbal medicine and diet regime from expert is: Niacin (2 to 3) tabs three times daily
Vitamin b6 twice daily
Magnesium two tabs twice daily
Fish oil high strength twice daily
(consult an expert)
Diet extremely low carbs, NO SUGAR, NO CAFFEINE TEA OR COFFEE obviously no drugs all these things keep your brain hyper stimulated. High fats, fibre.
Mental efforts which helped:
Forcing myself to rapidly look at things and go ‘its pointless, its all for nothing, look at that person, doesn’t have a clue, just like me, look at that flower nobody gives a shit, blah blah blah’ which helped me connect with my old state of mind which was solid and never scared me.
Drawing pictures here and there seemed to be okay for me.
Forced exposure like im doing now helpes numb your newly-built terror in your brain. Teaching your brain to deal with it by repeated exposure. I find its worse when it catches me off guard. Like my brain subconsciously slips into the thought without my control and thats what makes me go uneasy.
Going for a walk and talking to myself quite coherently in my old voice reminds me that i am still me.
If anyone else has had similar to my exact scenario i would be interested to hear.
Abdul Manan says
I woke up one day, and i had strange thoughts like “i am in a dream” and everything that has happened since some years was a dream, i also faced memory loss. I am very worried, cause i am getting these thoughts from the last 3 months, and i can’t concentrate on anything, i feel like all the good things are a dream, and i also feel like DP/DR is false, i mean, i got all the scary philosophical questions.
Please reply me, i will be very thankful
Abdul Manan says
What i mean by “good things” is things that give me pleasure like winning a lottery.