People going through depersonalization and derealization can become scared of losing their minds. They wonder if they are slowly going crazy. But can depersonalization and derealization drive someone insane?
When I was going through depersonalization and derealization disorder, I would often be totally scared of going insane. The fear of going crazy and losing control is one of the most intense fears you can feel. And it’s very common for DP/DR sufferers to feel this way almost every waking hour of their lives. But can you really go insane or crazy from depersonalization or derealization?
The short and simple answer is NO! There isn’t a conclusive link between DP/DR and going crazy. So then, why do we constantly feel this fear? And how can we overcome it?
The fear of insanity is actually one of the most primal fears we can experience. It’s only second to the fear of death itself. Whenever we feel like we are beginning to lose control and our grip on reality, this fear starts spiking.
The fear of going crazy, like any deep-rooted primal fear, builds on itself. Once you start feeling this fear, it quickly builds up and can reach high intensity.
I remember I first experienced this fear of insanity when having a panic attack. I had never experienced anything like that before. It left me shaken. Some people think they’re going to die from a heart attack while experiencing a panic attack, but there are others like me who dearly hold on to their sanity. I felt like I was about to snap. It’s one of the most unsettling fears that I have ever experienced.
And then after that day, I was afraid of going crazy almost every waking hour. It took a while for me to overcome it, but here, I’m going to tell you how to do that so you don’t have to struggle as much as I did.
How This Fear Gets Triggered
The fear of insanity doesn’t get triggered easily at first. It takes a panic attack to usually trigger it. But if we’re mentally ill or have been feeling weak due to a lot of stress, then we are setting ourselves up for this fear. Sometimes, consuming marijuana or any other psychedelics can also trigger this fear.
There’s a region in your brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for detecting threats. These threats can be outside real-world threats like being chased by a wild animal, or something internal like suddenly feeling out of touch with reality, which is a common symptom of derealization.
Once the amygdala detects a threat, a series of events happen that finally result in the adrenal glands dumping adrenaline into your bloodstream. Adrenaline is the hormone that makes you jump up in fear. It’s responsible for producing that stomach-churning, heart-beating-fast kind of panic that’s very distinct from other more moderate kinds of fears.
The amygdala is usually in the background and it doesn’t trigger primal fears easily, but once it triggers these fears, something happens to you. From that point on, it becomes easier to be scared again and again. It doesn’t take much for you to get triggered after your first experience.
You probably can relate to what I’m saying. Before experiencing the fear of going crazy, you may have been a carefree person. But once you got a taste of that insanity fear, you now can’t seem to let go. That’s all you can think of.
This is because there’s an ancient survival circuit in your brain. The amygdala is part of that circuit. Its job is to keep you alive and in control. This survival circuit is powerful and can influence your thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. Think of it as your internal alarm.
The fear of insanity is very close to the fear of losing control. I’d say they’re the same. So when this circuit thinks something bad is happening to you (even though it might not be true at all), it immediately starts sending the danger signal.
Once we perceive this danger signal, we react to it with fear, which intensifies the signal, which makes us react with even more fear. As you can see, we are becoming fearful of our fear and this quickly spirals out of control. Such rapid build-up of fear makes us feel like we are losing control. This is what we experience as the fear of going crazy or the fear of insanity.
Having This Knowledge Helps
So now that we have examined the fear of going crazy up close, let’s see how we can overcome these fears.
The good news is that we have already begun our healing journey. Just by learning about these deep-rooted, dark fears and shining a light on them, we are beginning to get the upper hand on them.
So now whenever you experience this fear of going crazy, you can try to remind yourself that it’s just a deep-rooted fear you are feeling.
Another important thing to remember is that just because you experience this fear, it doesn’t mean that whatever you’re afraid of is going to happen. You see, the survival circuit in your brain is designed to err on the side of caution.
To put it simply, it’s better for you to react with fear even when nothing dangerous is happening. Because doing so will keep you alive and hopefully in control. The survival circuit doesn’t care that this fear is so unpleasant and that feeling this fear over and over can put a dent in your life. It just doesn’t care about any of that. Its only job is to keep you alive and in control. So, it keeps flashing that danger sign with just the slightest provocation. This is what’s known as a false alarm.
You may have experienced this when making pizza at your home. Suddenly, the fire alarm goes off and it’s so annoying and it just won’t turn off that easily. You’re frustrated! You yell at the alarm: “Hey I was just making pizza, why are you overreacting?!”
This happens because it’s okay for the fire alarm to be designed this way. The manufacturers want it to err on the side of caution. They’d rather have this than a fire alarm that beeps only after the fire is out of control.
Do you see what I’m trying to tell you? Every time you are experiencing this fear of going crazy or insanity, just remind yourself that this is just a false alarm.
Next, try to understand what depersonalization and derealization disorder truly is. Know that DP/DR is a normal response of your body to stress and trauma. DP/DR is simply a defense mechanism. I know that’s hard for you to believe. But therapists agree that the reason we experience DP/DR is that it shields us from stress and trauma. Remember, you’re not weak for going through DP/DR. Anyone can experience this disorder if they underwent enough stress and trauma.
Once you build a good understanding of what DP/DR is, use that understanding as a neutralizer when the fear alarm goes off inside of you. When you start to think, “Oh my god, my reality feels weird. I must be going crazy,” just remind yourself that this is just how DP/DR feels. There’s nothing wrong with you. You are simply experiencing a symptom of DP/DR. It’s unpleasant, there’s no denying it, but it’s simply not dangerous.
DP/DR is Not Psychosis or Schizophrenia
A common fear among DP/DR sufferers is that DP/DR must be the starting point of something like psychosis. They even wonder whether DP/DR can lead to schizophrenia or not. Don’t worry, such claims are not founded on any scientific truth. This is just your fearful brain jumping to conclusions.
Most people who experience psychosis or schizophrenia have delusions that they will totally buy into and start believing. But when you go through DP/DR, you may just experience a racing mind and scary thoughts. You may have so many thoughts all at once. Some of these thoughts can be very strange in nature. You may have philosophical and existential thoughts like, “Why am I here?” “What does it mean to exist?” “Where did we come from?” etc.
But even when you’re having these strange thoughts, you can still understand that these are simply thoughts. A person who is undergoing psychosis or schizophrenia has delusional thoughts that they start believing in. They may experience hallucinations that they separate from reality. In essence, they cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is not.
On the other hand, someone undergoing DP/DR has not lost their ability to understand reality. Sure, the way you experience reality may be altered, but you are still in touch with it. You’re just having these strange thoughts and these intense fears, but your ability to understand reality is still intact. So don’t be alarmed, you’re not going crazy! You’re not going insane. You’re not going to lose control and run around the block yelling gibberish (this was a big fear of mine).
Actually, none of my fears of going crazy or going insane came true. Nothing dangerous happened to me. Was I afraid something bad might happen when going through DP/DR? For sure. But even after all these years, I am still here and still sane, probably better than ever.
And one more thing. Realize that there’s just a lot of misinformation out there about DP/DR. All of this adds to your confusion. You may be having an okay day and then you decide to google about DP/DR. You may then end up on a forum and read about someone else’s DP/DR experience and start to think, “Can this happen to me as well? What if I end up just like them?” This will trigger those deep fears in you.
Stop doing that. Why do you want to disturb your peace of mind? If you’re looking for accurate information on DP/DR and want to know how to recover, then check out: DP No More – The science-based online video course that can help you recover from DP/DR. This course contains all the right information you need, covered in short, easy-to-understand video clips. Not only that, if you’re struggling to reach recovery, then working out the exercises in each section of the course can definitely help you get unstuck. There are also nine guided meditations to help you find peace and calm during any kind of DP/DR scenario. Consider it your personal guide that can help you to recover from DP/DR.
If you’re going through DP/DR and worried that you’re losing your mind, use what you’ve learned here to calm yourself. You got this. You’re in control here. Don’t let that false alarm fool you!
Image Credits: Unsplash and Pixabay
This article was super helpful! The only thing that is getting me is I’m having a bit of a relapse of symptoms after a year of being recovered but this time the feelings of Depersonalization and Derealization are not present, but the irrational fears and fear of insanity are. In particular I’ve become extremely sensitive to subjects regarding memory and the idea of false memories. Does this sound like this is the same anxiety from DPDR or is this separate?
Jannis k says
Dear Swamy G,
Till now you are one of the greatest persons I have ever seen and I have a few questions about the derealization. Well now I’m in the sixth email and your emails have helped me a lot. My question is that I feel derealization only in specific situations for example when I’m away from my family or sometimes at night. Is this normal? Am I doing right that I read your emails or should I do something else ?
Thanks for reading, that means a lot,
I’ve dealt with dissociation in the past, but most recently after a fast taper from a psychiatric drug… this had subsequently led to me feeling completely detached, lacking emotion to everyone and everything around me… which slowly transformed into this idea that I’m going crazy or will break into full blown psychosis. I get very specific thoughts like “my life is a movie, video game, there are cameras there, people are watching, etc”. While I continue to refute these thoughts as being unrealistic, they only perpetuate the anxiety cycle and the DP/DR continues getting worse. The specificity of the thoughts is what’s so frightening to me. I’m told I have severe OCD/mental health anxiety. I don’t want to be in any medication regimens because of my history with them.
I’m hoping for SOME response. Any words of encouragement are welcomed.