It can be difficult to know whether you are recovering from depersonalization & derealization or not. Here are some signs that tell you that you are on the right path.
Depersonalization is a confusing disorder. There is not much information available on it because it hasn’t been as widely studied as other mental illnesses. Part of the confusion arises from how depersonalization makes us feel. We feel disconnected from ourselves and the world. The familiarity with which we traversed through existence seems to be replaced with the strangeness of everything.
The other confusing aspect of depersonalization/derealization (DP/DR) is that when we are moving through the experience, it can become hard for us to know whether or not we are recovering from it.
I often receive emails from people who are bothered by this question. People tell me that they practice acceptance, engage with life, and yet they are not sure if they are headed towards recovery.
When people experience setbacks during their recovery, they may think they are falling back into a DP hole again, without realizing that setbacks are part of the recovery process. We may go through two or three weeks where we feel like we are getting better, only to have a challenging week where we feel like any progress we made has been completely wiped out. This makes us question whether we were on the path to recovery at all.
Signs That Point to Your Recovery
Despite the confusing nature of DP/DR, there are some signs you can look for to know whether you are on the path to recovery. It’s important to realize that you are indeed recovering because that acts as a positive feedback loop. The more sure you are that you are recovering, the greater your chances of recovery. Your attitude can be one of the determining factors in this game. Here are some signs to look for in your recovery:
- From Terror to Unpleasantness: When we encounter DP/DR for the first time, it fills us with fear. We fear that we are losing our sanity and our health. But with acceptance and other practices outlined on this website, we may notice that what once really scared us is now just a point of frustration or something that is inconvenient. When you slowly recover, the fear and terror you initially experienced morphs into plain unpleasantness. You may still experience the weird symptoms of DP/DR, but you are no longer utterly terrified of it. Notice if this is the case with you. This is a clear sign of recovery.
- From Hopelessness to Hope: Another sign of being on the recovery path is that despite DP/DR symptoms showing up in your life, you now possess a sense of hope that it’s not always going to be like this. It’s understandable to feel hopeless with DP/DR, but as you are moving towards recovery, you start to develop this sense that it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. Your inner confidence and inner strength for handling these symptoms increase over time. Sure, there may be days where you feel tested, but deep down you know that the good days will come back.
- Being Able to Do What You Were Unable to Do Before: Remember the time when you were utterly filled with the fear that DP/DR brought with it? You wanted to just stay in bed or in the safety of your home. The real world and the people in it might have been too much to handle at that time. You probably skipped work or school and were spending way too much time googling your symptoms. We’ve all been there. Some of you reading this might be going through this exact phase. But with recovery, you slowly add back the activities that you once enjoyed doing. You might start going out and engaging with work and life. With time, you might start meeting up with friends again and shift your focus from DP/DR to something else. If you had avoided loud open areas or small closed spaces before, but now feel like you can handle those places despite the fear, then this is a very good sign of recovery.
- Forgetting From Time to Time That You Have DP/DR: Going from thinking about DP/DR during all of our waking time to occasionally forgetting that we have this condition is something to note. If this is happening to you, then you are on the right path. It’s how your brain moves on. You stop obsessing about this condition. You lose yourself in other things, be it work, school, hobbies, or relationships. During recovery, your constant obsessions with DP are broken and hours can go by without you thinking about DP.
- Ability to Feel Emotions Again: When DP first takes hold of someone, they tend to become numb to their emotions. This is because DP works as a shield against constant stress and damaging negative emotions, like panic and depression. As a consequence, people can also be cut off from positive emotions, such as happiness, love, and joy. When you start to recover, you slowly start to get your emotions back. At first, these may just be sadness, grief, and frustration. This may be mistaken for a sign of getting worse, but it’s not. Any emotion you feel is an indicator of a reduction in DP. Be accepting of these emotions just as you are accepting of DP. Over time, you will be able to feel positive emotions as well.
Journaling Can Help
In my own journey towards recovery, journaling helped me a lot. It not only helped me vent my frustration, anger, fear, and all the heavy emotions, it also served as a log of the times when I felt in good spirits. Then, when I was having a challenging day, I’d read about these good times and know that I was making progress, despite not feeling well in that moment. Those journal entries kept my confidence from crumbling to pieces. Journaling makes you see how far you have come in your recovery.
Some Final Words
Don’t try to measure your recovery daily. If you accept the DP along with its various symptoms and you also engage with life, DP will slowly subside.
You can use the words in this article as a guide every once in a while to measure your progress. Just make sure you aim for a long-term outlook. Don’t become upset with short-term failures. Stop obsessing about your recovery and progress so often. That obsession itself can become harmful and prevent you from fully recovering.
Also, remember that there will be setbacks. You might go days without an issue, and then suddenly, there will be a day or two where the DP will be high. The recovery process is never a straight line. It can look like two steps forward and one step back.
This is how you know you are recovering from depersonalization and derealization. Recovery takes time, but by practicing acceptance and having patience, you will be free from the clutches of DP.
- Images from Flickr & Pixabay
Thank you so much, I recently started to doubt if I am on the right path, and when I read your article it was clear that YES, I am recovering. I just started a new job where lots of people/open spaces/closed spaces are involved (it’s an IB school) and I thought how will I handle this with my condition? Guess what – I was terrified at first, but decided to give it a try, it’s a good and an interesting job, and I felt a huge progress after a while. I felt the DP symptoms but there were times I even forgot about them. I even go to malls and DP is strong there, and I feel really strange talking to people, like I do not exist at that moment, but I kinda challenge it every time and even smile at it and try to relax. I went to a rock concert yesterday in a huge stadium and I was a big challenge, but I said – whatever happens, it’s OK, I’ll just enjoy it, and I did, that was very strange but a huge relief. Hope that will give lots of hope to those who are struggling with the condition.
Your attitude is great! My morning anxiety DP was really rough today and I saw this comment and then just said to myself OK! I’m gonna take all of this frustration with a smile and just try to relax! Love to hear that you’re on the right way with recovery. Keep going 🙂
Thank you so much for this! It was really nice to see that I have made progress over time. Im still struggling to accept some of my symptoms, like my memories not feeling real, but Im in no hurry, I’m constantly improving, and I know this will fade with time if I let it 🙂 thank you so much again!
This is one of the weirdest ever health issues. Thank you for putting it into beautiful words. This will definitely help
Hi Swamy, Thank you so much for this article. As with all your articles, it is SPOT ON and full of highly accurate information, and incredible encouragement and support. You are a true inspiration. Thank you for all that you do! ~ Linda
Swamy G says
Thanks for letting me know Linda, much appreciated.
great article.is it normal to feel close to normal almost recovered and then have a day or two where u are literally lost and terrified again. it seems as the dp is reducing my anxiety is increasing. as in when i wake up i feel the anxiety alot more then when i was fully dissociated. I feel like crying and alot of grief. does this mean im goin in the right direction.
Swamy G says
Only you can be the judge of that Katie. See if the points I’ve written above feel true to you. Also, a clear indication is to see if you are able to handle sitting with these feelings and symptoms instead of wanting to run away or fight them. It’s natural to still feel fear and unpleasantness, but you feel less wanting to fight them or run away from them.
well yes i am not as scared of them. i do however become afraid when like last week i had a week of basically symptom free and now im having a setback and its very scarey. can this happen even when close to recovery? i am definately more emotional and feeling alot of grief and sadness.
I found this site today and I was wondering how you were doing? You may not even check this anymore if you’re feeling better, which I hope you are. So far, I’ve been stuck here with depersonalization/derealization for a little over 8 months. I feel exactly like you did when you wrote this now. I was more numb, but now I’m feeling extreme grief and sadness about not being in touch with loved ones and my life. I do have times when I feel more connected and have more emotions, then at other times I feel lost again. I’m having a terrible time accepting what has happened and I worry that it has forever ruined my relationships because I won’t be able have my bonds and memories like they were before. It’s almost like I’m starting over and everything is STRANGE feeling. I feel like my anxiety on some days is so much worse than it was when I was in severe depersonalization/derealization. What worries me most is that I have two little girls and we had the closest/best relationship, but when this happened, I suddenly felt like my life was a distant memory and I disconnected from them and my husband. I try so hard to pretend to be normal to everyone. I worry that I will never have the same relationship with them again, or even be able to fully feel like it’s my life and be able to feel love again. The grief I feel is like the death of a loved one. I look at pictures of my babies and I feel emotion now, at first I couldn’t really feel at all, but it is a severe grief, and I cry because I feel like that’s all gone forever. I still feel distant from my life like there’s an invisible wall between myself and everyone else.
I am always wondering if I’m recovering or if this is how it left me. If you read this, please reply, I need all the hope I can get.
Thank you so much for posting this..very little information on what it feels like to recover because it’s a gradual process. I used to break every day into three sections and color code those sections (based on my level of dpdr and anxiety) on a calendar to prove to myself that I was improving. Eventually I didn’t need to do that, but my process went just as you explained…it’s still something I experience but it’s more situational and not a constant feeling. The process isn’t linear and setbacks can shake you up, but it isn’t progress lost! It’s a beautiful feeling to return back ‘home’. If you’re still living in the bubble of dpdr, please know that it WILL get better!!
i have developed derealization from cannabis two weeks ago. i am trying my hardest to be strong and positive but sometimes i just can’t handle it. i have been feeling a lot better recently, like hours at a time, this is a terrifying issue, and i pray to all that’s struggling get better . does anyone have suggestions what i could do? and do i hav the disorder or is it just a long episode or freaking myself out?
Same, except its been two years and i havent recovered yet. I forgot what living feels like. Not sure if i can even recover. Only emotion i kinda remember is love. Hopefully i can go back to normal before highschool is over. Ruined my first two years. I would do anything just to feel normal again.
7 years of continuous DPDR and counting..BUT, I am definitely now on the road to recovery, something which I thought impossible a year ago (when I still hadn’t accepted that anything was wrong, it seems my brain was doing the protection thing to the extreme!), therapy and a few months of an SSRI have helped me get on track, so for anyone reading this and losing hope, it IS possible to get better, dont be afraid to ask for help, your symptoms are scary but very very real, even if you can’t figure out how to explain them! Thanks for this article, it’s a great list to keep coming back to and it’s helping me stay in that positive mindset!
Swamy G says
That’s really great to hear about your progress. I’m sure people reading it will feel hopeful.
i’m so close to being fully recovered it’s crazy! i definitely appreciate you man, i know everything will fall back into place and this just helps even more! have a blessed life and take care THANK YOU❤️!
Swamy G says
Happy to hear about your recovery.
Sharmila Khanal says
Thank you so much sir🙏 I’m progressing because of you😩😊
I’ve had dp/dr for eight years now. It’s definitely gotten a whole lot better, but I’m worried that I will never fully recover since it has been so long that I’ve had this. I want hope back.
I started to experience derealization 3-4 weeks ago … the first days I was confused, it seemed to me that I saw my house through the eyes of a stranger, although everything was familiar to me, I saw everything strange. I still do. and for about two weeks my brain has been constantly questioning the reality of objects, of the surrounding space. Fortunately, I did not have any panic attacks, I had moments when the derealization seemed to be accentuated and moments when I distracted myself by cleaning the house, sitting on the phone, watching a movie, in which I felt a little more connected with the surrounding reality. I haven’t been out for a few days because I was scared and I just feel like I’ve lost the enthusiasm to do the activities that I normally did with pleasure. But today I went out on my bike and walked for about 2-3 hours, during which time I felt much better, there were moments when I felt that I was almost normal, just like before and I even shed a few tears of joy. Now that I’m back home, I feel like I’m derealizing again, but I’m a little tired anyway. The point is, I don’t feel any worse, I’ve been just about the same every day, but today was my first day feeling better! Am I on my way to healing?
Hei how are you guys feeling? I been in a constant stress for the last 4 years, my feelings have started to come back but i only can cry, feel sad, and i feel like I don’t even know who i am , and what i want to do, and i feel a void in my stomach, I can’t connect with the world and that is affecting me alot i feel I can’t even work, I’m wondering if i will be able to connect with the world around me again
Hi George. How are you feeling? This is where i am in my recovery-progress too. I think the part of «go out an enjoy your life» is the hardest. Thats simply because we CAN’T feel joy. I always wondering how they who jave recovered says that they can do that. The same thing goes to feel scared, fear, anger etc. This is emotions, how is it possible to FEEL this when you are disconnected? Guess my question goes to everyone who has recovered. To me you have to accept that you can’t feel your emotion, then try to live your life as normal as possible (without «enjoy») and then your emotions starts to come back. Maybe this is what everone means, but i get a bot confused about that.
Hope u all feel better soon! And that u actually can FEEL it 🙂
Its defenetly scary for me bcs im feeling like im losing myself but reading this and the comments made me feel hope and glad that im not the only one. I just hope it goes away quick for me its been like this over a week and im about to start my forst uear in college next week i hope it wont affect my daily life…
Jessica Elkaim says
Hi. My 22yo son is suffering so badly with this.
I dont think he will be up to reading and going through a course to get through it though.
Do you offer counciling virtual?
I have had DPDR for about 2 months now and I’m not nearly as scared when those feelings come around as I used to was. But I always have this kinda brain fog or stuffy feeling in my Brain that makes everything look dull is this normal?