“I find myself regarding existence as though from beyond the tomb, from another world; all is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body and individuality; I am depersonalized, detached, cut adrift. Is this madness?… No.”
– Henri-Frédéric Amiel
Depersonalization (DP) is painful to live with. It scares you, exhausts you, torments you, and then teases by giving you a little break, only to take tackle you again when you least expect it.
I developed DP over four years ago over a period of two months that just completely took me by surprise. The carpet was suddenly pulled out from under me and I found myself standing on molten lava.
I felt completely disconnected from the reality which I used to take for granted. The sheer terror of looking in the mirror and feeling completely alien to myself can never be serialized into words.
What made it more painful was that I wasn’t able to share how I was feeling with my close friends and family because I felt like they would not understand. The feeling is very hard to describe and also very hard for people to comprehend. It’s like telling someone what taking a tab of LSD is like; they are not going to get it unless they’ve dropped acid before.
Often depersonalization comes bundled with derealization (DR), as if it were some kind of super-saver pack of dread. A buy one, get one offer that you never wanted in the first place. I will refer to the condition as DP/DR since they almost always cohabitate with one another.
DP/DR robs you of your confidence to feel like yourself.
If you are walking around, watching your life like a movie inside your head, experiencing everything in the third person, then how can you respond normally to people? There were so many times I felt like an alien that had just landed on this dreadful planet called Earth. Now, in my mind I knew that this was not true, but I felt everything was different than how it used to be. I longed for the day I would be normal again.
I yearned to wake up one day to find this feeling gone and feel reintegrated into reality. The fearful thoughts would subside once in a while, like when the tide goes out, only to be replaced with a mild sadness and anguish about my predicament. The uncertainty of how long I would have to endure this was taking a toll on me. I had no answer.
Nevertheless, I was fully functional on the outside. I still showed up to work, hung out with friends, practiced with my band every week, and went on dates, even though I felt like there was a thin veil between myself and the rest of the world. At times, when the DP/DR was in full swing, trying to hide my discomfort was so taxing to me.
I wasn’t ashamed of feeling this way, I just thought people would not be able to understand me. It felt like being high on marijuana to an uncomfortable level, and just being there in that place for years.
My experiences included the following:
- A general feeling of disconnect from reality.
- Fear that I might go crazy.
- Fear I will dissolve into non-existence.
- Often looking at my hands and not feeling like they were my own.
- Feeling detached from friends and family. People looked very new and alien to me.
- Watching my reflection in the mirror and unable to feel that it was me.
- When I spoke, I’d feel as though the words were not mine. They felt alien, even though on the outside I was very coherent.
- My memories seemed so vague. I remembered old memories and could form new ones, but the memories had a dream-like quality to them.
- Extreme sensitivity to caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants.
- Being excessively concerned with existential questions like, “Why am I here? How do I exist? Is existence real or is it a dream? Am I dead and in some kind of purgatorial world?”
- Having a racing mind that was filled with thoughts which were very nonsensical in nature. I had trouble concentrating.
- Experiencing panic when the intensity of DP/DR increased. The panic and DP/DR would feed off each other.
- Feeling a general sense of doom and dread about losing my sanity.
- Experiencing somatic symptoms like a blunt pressure on my forehead, general dizziness, weightlessness in my hands and legs, tightness in my chest.
- Feeling disoriented, as if I were walking upside down or sideways.
There were other strange experiences that I felt but these were the most pronounced.
The Path Towards Recovery
Fortunately, I came to understand early on that my DP/DR was just an offshoot of anxiety. It is something that develops when the stresses in one’s life become greater than the resources that are available to cope with them.
Reading other people’s recovery stories on the internet filled me with hope. I was still unaware of the cause of my anxiety but I was willing to accept it for what it was.
Acceptance is the key towards recovery.
This was an insight that I gained and for some reason it resonated deeply with me. I was really resistant to the idea of taking medication for my condition. The strongest reason being that there was no medication that had been invented yet specifically for DP/DR. Other reasons that prevented me from reaching for medication included the possible side effects of the drugs, and not wanting to be dependent on an external resource to manage my illness. However, I am not completely opposed to people taking medication to manage their anxiety.
As I learned to accept my anxiety, I still felt depersonalized, but it wasn’t scary anymore.
I understood that your perception changes when there is too much adrenaline in your body. When the mind is stressed out, it disassociates to protect itself. Evolutionarily speaking, it is better to go through life feeling detached than to be completely broken down by multiple stressors. Because of my understanding, I knew that there was no need to be afraid of how I was feeling. My DP/DR went from being really scary to just very unpleasant.
I journaled about my fears, thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings. Instead of letting these fears hang around in my mind, I gave them a voice and channeled them into my journal entries. When things were lurking inside my head they seemed really dreadful, but when I put them into words they seemed to lose their intensity. It helped me to defuse their power.
The other major benefit of journaling was that whenever I had a setback, I’d go back and read about the days when I felt better. This instantly calmed me down. When you are in the throes of anxiety or in the full swing of DP/DR, you tend to forget that you have been there before and have come out of it. You need a reminder that what you are experiencing is only temporary unpleasantness.
I was well aware that there would be setbacks: it’s how this recovery process works. Weeks would go by without any particular incidents, and then suddenly one morning I’d wake up feeling anxious for the next few days. One has to accept this cycle of progress.
However, with every setback and eventual advancement, I grew confident in the knowledge that what I was experiencing was not going to kill me or drive me insane. I had been through it many times before and had gotten out unharmed every time.
Another realization that helped me move towards recovery was when I realized that it was a waste of precious resources to worry excessively about one’s condition, even in those dark moments.
It is exactly because of this unnecessary worrying that the stress hormones are elevated, which results in more depersonalization.
This cycle has to be broken.
The best place to start is to realize that worrying works against you. Start there and nip it in the bud. Realize that you are not in harm’s way: you are simply experiencing a weird protective mechanism of your mind. Once I found solace in this fact, I could relax and let my guard down. There was no need for me to be always vigilant against anxiety. When I accepted my fear, the fear lost its meaning. I still felt the fear and would be out of touch with reality for a while, but it did not bother me as much as it did before.
The recovery process takes time. The mileage may vary for every individual.
Acceptance is a practice that requires long-term commitment. I eventually started taking the backseat to let my body and mind heal themselves. When you have a broken bone, all you can do is set it in place, put a cast around it, and give it time. The body will gradually grow the bone back to its original setting.
Similarly, I accepted the depersonalization, the fear, and the unpleasantness, and got on with my life. I did what I really cared about and left the rest up to the automatic healing mechanisms of the mind and the body. I gave myself permission to feel whatever I was feeling at that moment. My body and mind were doing the best they could and I understood that if I got out the of way, healing would occur automatically.
Along with acceptance, I felt action was also necessary. Action not in combating the DP/DR, but in other areas of my life that demanded some attention. I discovered that exercising not only made me stronger but also helped in warding off the anxiety. By incorporating weight lifting and rock climbing into my fitness routines, it was incredibly refreshing for me to stay in the present moment as opposed to being lost in unwanted rumination about what was going on inside of me.
I had found that caffeine greatly increased my anxiety. As I had not been much of a coffee drinker, I easily switched to decaf. Also, cutting down on drinking not only staved off the anxiety, it also made me healthier. Even though I have a medical marijuana card, I had to cut down and, on occasions, completely stop using marijuana for recreational use.
And finally, I got a lot of help and support when I started seeing a therapist. The first therapist I found did not have a sufficient understanding of dissociative conditions like DP/DR, but eventually I ended up finding someone who had firsthand experience of the phenomenon. That was a big relief to me, to be able to talk to someone who understood what I was going through and to see that this person had come through to the other side.
These days, I do feel depersonalized on a few occasions, and sometimes it can be for days at a stretch, but it does not startle me like it used to. I am able to live with this feeling and not be overwhelmingly consumed in trying to rid myself of it. It has even enabled me to experience reality at a unique level, one that I’d not be privy to if I did not have this condition.
Note to Sufferers
I understand how you are feeling right now. I’ve been there before. I want to tell you that you are going to be fine.
Trust me, even though right now you might be on the edge of your being, feeling nervous and in a state of confusion, know that this will all pass over time.
You are not going to lose your mind, you are not going insane, you are not going to die, you are not going to harm yourself or others. That is just your mind talking. This is what I wanted to hear when I was in the middle of the DP/DR storm, and I hope it brings comfort to you when you read it.
When you are in a state of extreme stress and panic, your cognition (the process of thinking) changes. Once the stress levels are back to normal, your thoughts will be too. You will have your personality back.
In fact, you will emerge from this stronger than you were before.
Accept these feelings without trying to resist them. You don’t have to do anything special to accept something: you just have to do nothing. That probably goes against the grain of what you are thinking right now. You may feel the need to battle this DP/DR demon, or put up a fight to get rid of your anxiety, but those efforts are always in vain. You need to understand that you are having a normal reaction to the high level of stress that you are experiencing in your life. DP/DR is serving as a protective layer against the incredible stress you are feeling, some of which can arise out of the depersonalization itself. It is not a perfect mechanism, but it is how our brains are wired.
Stop consuming caffeine and see how you feel. Same with other stimulants such as nicotine and herbs like ginseng. Cut down on your alcohol consumption. I found that there was a connection between depersonalization and alcohol. If I drank too much, my depersonalization was high the next day.
If you use recreational drugs, experiment with not taking them for a few weeks and notice if you feel any different. Do not use any psychedelics without the support of a well trusted companion. If possible, avoid them until you start feeling better.
Use the internet to find a professional who specializes in dissociative disorders; talk to them and ask them if they understand what you are going through.
I also offer an online course called DP No More for sufferers to get through these difficulties in their life. It’s a program that can help you completely recover from depersonalization and derealization.
Though there is helpful information on several forums on the internet, you have to steer clear of the resounding hopeless sentiment that can sometimes exist in these places.
As Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts once said, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.” You have to disconnect from the practice of constantly searching and reading up on DP/DR. That can exhaust your already tired mind. You need to engage with life, rather than just your computer. A walk in the park fosters more healing than sedentary time in front of a screen.
Even now, on some days my DP/DR can be very strong, lifting me from the calm present moment to a state of surreal confusion. Nevertheless, I know that these feelings don’t last very long. They always dissipate like the sweat on your skin. You can either allow these feelings and let them come and go as they wish, eventually leading to their extinction, or you can hold on to them, worry about them, and prolong their stay.
Connect with the world and the people around you even though it is overwhelming at times. Start small and progress gradually at a pace that you find comfortable.
Let me reiterate that there’s nothing wrong with you and that you are not going crazy, however bleak the situation looks. Don’t waste valuable energy trying to hide it from others. I understand that people may not be able to comprehend what you are going through, but that doesn’t mean they can’t empathize with your suffering.
You’ll find that once you open up to your loved ones, the people you are close to, it becomes easier for you to be in the same room with your feelings and other people.
Just as you wouldn’t try to hide a fractured bone from your friends and partners, don’t stress yourself out by concealing the way you feel. And no, these feelings do not make you a weaker person.
I hope that by sharing my story I have instilled some hope in you. In my early struggle with DP/DR I wanted assurance that I was going to be all right. That is what I want you, the reader, to take away from this article. You are going to be fine. You will get through this.
- Opening image – https://www.flickr.com/photos/omardearmas/2857174054
Nathalie Serrado says
Your story is very inspirational. However, sometimes I feel that my case is different from others out there. I’m not even sure if what I have is DP/DR. All of its symptoms definitely match with the ones I am feeling but I haven’t been formally diagnosed with DP/DR. A question that always bugs me is whether people with this condition have brain damage. I believe my DP/DR was caused by drug use and I am terrified by the idea that I might have caused irreparable damage to my brain. Are there any tests that could confirm nothing is wrong with my brain and that things will be back to normal? I have been in this state for two years and due to it, I had to take a break from school. I am so terrified by the idea of being stuck like this forever. Any thoughts or comments?
I don’t think you have any brain damage. So many people feel the same way. However, I am not a doctor and cannot formally diagnose you. You could ask your doctor to do an MRI Brain Scan and see if he/she can spot anything unusual. But if you ask me, chances are very very slim that this is nothing other than DP/DR brought about by having intense anxiety (which could have resulted from experiementing with mind altering substances).
Your symptoms and mine won’t exactly match 100% simply because we are different people. Your body and mine work differently. But we are human, so we both would experience some of the same symptoms.
Talmage Turpin says
If your looking for a test to see If you can get out of it. This is what I tryed and it worked for me so lmk if this helps you. When you feel it coming on focus on it and try to make it happen. Forcing it it might seem scary but there is no reason to be scared. Once you realize you can control it like that you realize it’s all in your head. Let me know if this helps you
Hello, your story gives me so much hope; thank you for sharing. Ive been dealing with anxiety on and off for about 2 and a half months, even though it does not seem very long, it has been a nightmare. The anxiety symptoms are gone because I started to no longer fear them, however, derialization has been tormenting me. I often question why I’m here, whether I’m dreaming or not because I feel so out of this world. Its been a nightmare. I am well aware its party of intense anxiety and I’m really trying to cope, but its been hard. I pray for the day I feel normal again. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story and Im so happy you were able to recover. 🙂 Thank you again.
Swamy G says
Thank you Karla for saying that. De-realization can definitely be very disturbing and disorienting. But each day you inch closer to those feelings that are distrubing, unpleasant or down right scary, you take the power away from them. Good luck with your recovery.
This is very good article on DP/DR. I experienced the same for 2 years and found my way out of it almous completely. What I think that people don’t realize is that it takes time and effort to get yourself out of it. It won’t just go away. You do have to break all the bad habits like drinking, drugs, even smoking, eating shity processed food. You do have to start moving your body and to be in nature more and to rethink your life and see if you made the right choices, and to rethink your circle of people again. You have to do stuff, it won’t just go away. And most importantly, you have to understand what’s going on actually, and you explained it good.I think it’s a wake up call to change your life and start LIVING, for yourself, in peace with yourself, not trying to please others. Because I got the impression that people who are stuck in DP/DR are very emotional, creative, inteligent, and they tend to live life by other people’s rules just to be accepted. And that is wrong if you ask me, and that is what this condition is trying to tell you.
Hi Marija. I from Czech Republic, so excuse my czech english..Could I ask you- Did you have feeling that you losing yourself progressively at the beginning of DP/DR or it was a just quick switch into DP/DR? And as a observer of your acting-did you feel odd emptiness? I am still in my body, but every day reduces myself, that I cant enjoy almost anything. Myself is hidden somewhere and this feeling is so strange. Iam somewhere between observer and rest of myself..I ve just received video from YT-Emptiness is also form. I hope I will be able to live and work with that. .
Dick Bridgman says
The feelings of DP or DR are caused from a tired mind all caused from anxiety and upon the dwelling of not only your symptoms but by constantly trying to figure out how to get away from it. If you see it as only a symptom of a very tired mind from anxious thinking and get GOOD SLEEP this will heal itself. I had what you are suffering from but once I saw what the cause was not only did I lose my gear of it, I simply don’t get the feelings any longer. I know the feeling are uncomfortable but that’s as bad as it gets. SIMPLY PUT, TO MUCH ANXIOUS BROODING IS CAUSING A TIRED MIND AND YOUR SYMPTOMS ARE THE RESULT, AND AGAIN REST YOUR MIND WITH GOOD SLEEP AND DO SIMPLE THINGS LIKE WALKING, READING TALKING TO FRIENDS, IN OTHER WORDS DISTRACT YOURSELF FROM YOURSELF, IT WORKED FOR ME MANY YEARS AGO AND I HAVE NEVER SUFFERED FROM THE FEELINGS SINCE.
Diana R. says
Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with derealization for the past three months. I am an attorney who, ostensibly, “has it all”– incredible family, wonderful and supportive partner, new apartment, solid job, however, I have checked off almost every symptom that you mentioned above (with the addition of brain fog, micro-muscle twitches and sporadic insomnia). Back in August of this year I had some type of a virus that lingered for 6-8 weeks, with lots of muscle weakness and vertigo and I was in a heightened state of panic worrying about what was wrong with me, when I would feel like myself again and if I would be stuck like this forever. Unfortunately, long after the physical symptoms went away (and after hundreds of dollars spent seeing every doctor known to man), I think my brain just got sort of “stuck” in a hyper-focused gear and once my body no longer was exhibiting weird symptoms, my brain (as most brains prone to anxiety do) looked for something else to focus on, and continued the mantra of “this doesn’t feel right; I don’t feel right; I don’t feel like myself” and eventually morphed into derealization. I initially thought that I was totally zoomed out– that I was looking at the biiiiig picture, that these thoughts were very “meta”. However, I believe it is quite the opposite, and that derealization has you focused on the minutia. Derealization has you thinking: “OK, it’s January, but does that word/concept feel familiar?” or “OK, I know what a car is, but why don’t I feel the same way about the concept of a car?”. First and foremost, these thought checks are the worst measure of your normalcy, why? Because you never did them when you felt “normal” so trying to compare how you feel about January now versus when you felt “normal” will only lead you feeling worse. Before derealization, I never did these little check-ins, so why should I gauge my progress on that scale now?
I try to tell myself that anxiety brought me into this mess and quashing that anxiety will bring me out, and my rational mind knows that is true, and my rational mind knows that the world around me and the people around me are the same, it is only my perception that has changed, but as the days slip on it gets a bit harder and harder to believe that I will come out of this. Even as I talk about it sometimes it doesn’t feel real; like a double negative- my feelings of derealization don’t feel real.
However, when I get down on myself, I try to think of fog- you can be driving down the same block that you’ve lived on your entire life, that you know like the back of your hand, but when there is dense fog, nothing looks familiar. While the street is still there, and it is the same as it always has been, your perception vis-a-vis the fog, is different. However, as sure as that fog rolled in and made everything look unfamiliar, it will roll out. It might take a while, it might be almost imperceptible, but one day, the fog will finally clear and that road that was always familiar, that “changed” to look unfamiliar, will once again look familiar. I trust that this will be my case. That one day, the last remnants will dissipate and the world will be, in my eyes, as it once was.
Thank you for this sounding board. One final thought that keeps me going as well: remember, most people who experienced derealization and got better do not post on message boards, they are back out living their lives. So do not lose heart when googling “derealization gets better” only yields negative results. I am confident that it will get better, and that I will walk out of this storm a stronger version of my ol’ self. Blessings and peace to you all.
Interesting comment, you hit the nail on the head with a particular comment you said. Get in touch with me.
Hello ur symtoms really mathes me pleses can
u tell me how u controll ur disorination and derealization i am suffering from this for 4 years
Max Brage says
Thanks for using the knowledge you gained to help others!
In hindsight, if you had the choice to revert back to the point in time just before your DP/DR experiences and from there on continue to live “normally”, would you do it? Think red pill / blue pill from the movie The Matrix, if you’re familiar with that reference.
By the way, your super saver combo of dread analogy had me laughing.
Swamy G says
I don’t think there was one single incident that triggered my DP. There was a combination of factors. But they all had one thing in common: stress. The way I see it now is that I just couldn’t have escaped it. If DP/DR hadn’t caught up with me back then, it sure would have now. In a weird sort of way, I am glad I experienced such a state. It made me aware of the fact that there’s more to reality, strengthened my spiritual side, and put me on this path to helping others.
You could say Life itself forced me to swallow the red pill, and never gave me an option of the blue one.
In a heartbeat I’d go back in time.
Michael thubron says
Hello mate my name is Michael and I have been struggling with this on and off for nearly a year now, I had it before but when I seen this post I didn’t know what it was, but I am very encouraged by this and I hope and pray I will overcome it again , the symptom that bothers me most is the constant questioning of the universe why we are here, is there a god .. Which I do believe there is and all the philosophical questions that come with it, I just want to live my life enjoy life and love my family without all these thought… Again thanks for any reply.
Yeess! Very inspiring story! Thank you. I recommend act therapy for all those suffering with anxiety and dr/dp. Like the op said, acceptance is the key. What i came to read, was that existential questions and dp are related. Been worrying a lot about my thoughts on meaning of life etc. Now that i know dp also affects one’s thoughts, i can start chilling again!
I want to thank you for sharing your story. I have been suffering from dpdr for 7 months after an episode in which I smoked weed which caused me to feel disassociated and resulted in panic attacks lasting for a few hours, then causing severe dpdr. Initially I suffered from paranoia (thought the weed was spiked), thought I was losing my mind and felt like I was ‘trapped’ in a fake world. After researching online, I came to understand what I was experiencing and that really helped me to ‘recover’ to the extent were I wasn’t thinking/worrying about how I felt all of the time. I would have moments were I would realise with surpise that I hadn’t felt disassociated all day. I learnt to accept the dpdr, acknowledge that it felt strange and not let it worry me. However, over the past couple of weeks I have days were my mind has been flicking back to the dpdr, worrying that I’m going to go back to that extreme dpdr and that there is no escape from my mind. This is why I have come across your story, in search of people who have ‘recovered’. So I want to thank you, for reminding me that there is no clear cut ‘recovery’, that it is okay to still be healing and that there are other people out there who are experiencing the same feelings. Thank you.
I am so glad I have found this, i feel less alone and afraid. Could someone tell me if it sounds like i have DP disorder…
Around two years ago i smoked some weed with a friend having done so several times before and since that day i believe something was triggered in me.
I was fine then all of a sudden i had an episode where i wad sure i was dying and/or losing my mind. I had severe chest pains and felt very detached and scared. I felt like everything was flat and that my body was closing in on itself. I eventually vomitted and after hours about 6 hours in this panicked state i went to sleep.
To my horror i felt the same strange detached feeling and fogginess when i woke up and have done ever since.
I have been to many doctors and none have understood my symptoms or else dont take me seriously.
Feeling like i am not
Wondering if i am actually dead or in a
Overthinking about the meaning of life and reasons for doing even the smallest tasks
Feeling life is futile
Looking at my hands and they are distorted or warped or enlarged or shrunken (sometimes lasting minutes sometimes hours)
Feeling like i am unbalanced and walking funny and leaning to one side
Feeling like i can feel my heart beating extremely fast even when my heart rate is normal
Feeling like i dont know who i am anymore and as though my personality was taken away
Feeling as though body parts arent my own
Can someone please reply. This is making me very suicidal to the point i have been hospitalised twice within 3 months. No one seems able to help me
Marianne Miettinen says
You’re definitely experiencing depersonalization/derealization. Go to a therapist 🙂 You might also have panic attacks. Those are both caused by intense stress. I think the drugs might have done the initiative on the disorder but the stress and worrying makes it prolong.
Most people heal from depersonalization by stopping actively worrying about it and instead having normal life tasks to do. I wish the best for you, there is hope. I’m on my recovery as well. Get your day to day life into balance, see people, create a healthy routine and wake up regularly. These are important in making your mind relax and heal. Go to work. Do what other healthy people do.
Meg Chesham says
Hi Swamy. Your story really resonates with me and I wish I had, had access to a story like this when I went through a bout of existential depression/DP myself as it makes you feel so incredibly alone.
One evening when I was 15, just before I was about to go to the cinema the thought struck me from absolutely nowhere “what is life?”/”why am I here?” and I couldn’t let it go until a feeling of derealisation set in. I spent the entire evening staring at the back of peoples heads in the cinema thinking how alien they all looked.
This lasted for several months along with lots of anxiety and so many questions about life. Everything that happened to me before that single thought that night felt like a different lifetime. I felt different. I saw a counsellor twice, but felt too embarrassed by what I was saying so stopped. I was terrified I was going mad.
Eventually though, after a couple of years, it began to fade and my thoughts moved on to other things until eventually I was able to control/ignore the thoughts I was having if I didn’t delve too deeply into them and quickly distracted myself.
Although it was a terrible time in my life and it scared me and my parents to death, I feel a much more stronger person having come through it and I feel much more equipped to handle anxiety. I’m 25 now and despite a couple of low periods, I haven’t experienced anything like it since.
Swamy G says
Thanks for sharing your story. Glad you were able to move through it. I hope your story inspires and gives hope to the readers of this post.
Inna H. says
This comment particularly made me feel better (and ofcourse Swamy’s post was so helpful)! Thank you Meg for posting it here! My existential anxiety/depression/DPDR started spontaniously like yours so it’s so important for me to see that there are also people like me who have made it through the other side! Step by step, one day I will also recover from this 🙂
Hi Swamy ,
Thank you for your great story. I first experienced DP back in 2009. It was a weird experience but somehow after about a year I made a complete recovery. I had totally forgot what those thoughts and feelings felt like. Fast forward to this past January I made a dumb mistake and smoked some weed with some friends, and BAM it hit me again so bad and hard.
I got to a point this year where I believed I was starting to get better and would soon forget all these feelings again like I did the first time. However in September my fiancé and I finalized our wedding plans and put a deposit down on the wedding and a couple of days later I had a terrible nightmare about the wedding. Ever since then my DP has been so bad I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m hoping that once the wedding comes and is done with I can begin to recover once again. Any advice would be appreciated. Some days I feel ok and like I can beat this but others my anxiety is so bad and I just cant deal with it. Sometimes I consider taking medication but I don’t know if that it will make it worse or better, I am very scared to try it. Thank you.
Hey Megan! I’m also in DP / existential OCD rut triggered by a traumatizing weed experience. It’s been about 6 months for me.
One thing that’s helped me to appreciate movement in the ways I’m thinking and feeling. Though I’m not exactly all stitched up now, I feel conscious of an incredible progression when I reflect on the first couple of days (post “bad trip”) — in which I truly felt like I’d lost my human coordinates. These days, DP/DR and existential “what if[s]” come and go, and sometimes they can still shake me up into dizzying, death-approximating panic — but other times they’re just background information, and I can tune them out and find joy in the things I used to. Don’t get me wrong; the rough patches are otherwordly, and, in-situ, feel completely extinguishing. But they’ve gone from continuous to most-of-the-time to some-of-the-time, and I’m confident that, with patience, they’ll tend towards zero.
Re: Doctors, that can be tough. Some of them really know spectacularly little (– other than the whims of pharmaceutical companies.) I’d look into a doctor who specializes in DP/DR; if not, a doctor who works with thought-based OCD (existential OCD — a different way of phrasing the same thing, I think) might also be helpful.
Stay strong! It’s hard, but it (slowly) gets better. Wishing you all the best.
Thank you for sharing your story Swamy. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve described as well as to the other stories in the comments. It’s strangely relieving to know that other people are going through the same thing and have had the exact same thoughts. I believe that I’ve had dp/dr for the past 5 years or so. I feel like I interact with other people through a lens and that life almost doesn’t feel real. I’ve found myself looking at myself in the mirror or at my hands, almost as if they weren’t mine. I almost feel like I have an extra level of awareness that other people don’t have. On an almost daily basis, I find myself thinking a lot of existential thoughts as well as others which I don’t have answers for. “Why am I on this earth,” “What is life and how did we all get here”, “Is there a god,” “What is my purpose”, and “What does it really mean to be happy” are some examples of thoughts I regularly have. While I’m only in my mid 20s, I also frequently have thoughts about the inevitability of my own mortality. I’m not a religious person at all so I don’t find any comfort in the idea of dying. The thought that I and everyone I’ve ever known will eventually die is something that I find extremely unsettling. If anybody else here is going through the same thing, feel free to get ahold of me if you’d like to talk.
I find myself feeling the exact same way constantly. Honestly I only know two other people besides myself that understand this feeling so if you ever want to talk about it I would be all for it. It would be really cool to actually talk to someone who understands what I’m feeling. It seems like I’m constantly trying to explain to people what I’m feeling but they don’t understand at all. My names Madison and if you ever want to talk I am down!
I’m 22 years old and believe I have been suffering from so/dr for five years now.
Although one of the WORST symptoms I suffer is a tension type headache that is ALWAYS there, I’m guessing this is from the constant thoughts and tired brain. I haven’t been diagnosed but I am 100000% convinced this is what I have. It’s reallt getting me down, into a deep depression. When I look at my fiancé I don’t even recognise him. I feel like I’m going insane and the best way I can describe it is that life just feels WEIRD people seem weird I seem weird. I don’t feel like I’m ever going to over come this as it is 5 years on its wearing me down and I’m losing hope of change
The “weird” part hits the nail on the head for me . That’s the worst I think . I’ll feel weirded out by people and even my own fiancée . It’s a very strange and bizarre feeling that I can’t even put in to words . Even as I type this I’m thinking it and reliving the feeling , it’s horrible . It’s crazy because I’ve never heard someone else put it in to words until today . It’s relieving yet still terrifying . The fact that we all found this post definitely means we have all been searching for answers and help . I hope you’ve found help and relief since Mary .
Hello I have this for 5 months straight now. It was caused by an antibiotic. I feel like I want to die . I see the world as flat with it. I miss the old me so much and I miss my kids even tho they’re with me.
Nyamenle amaah says
Wow swamy im touched by your story, actually your story has helped me. Thanks.
Amazing. I’ve had it for 2 long years. I can find myself in a lot of your article , same as you im 95% out of it , but the truth is that in the end its really exprience that im gratefull of. i used to do a lot of psychelics , and smoke a lot of cannabis, now im a different person, more mature , take vitamines , study at the university and triyng to enjoy from every single breath.
I am going through dp/dr right now and I think that I am on a path to recovery bc in the beginning anything didn’t feel real but now some days it feels real but now I am trying to just live with it bit some days are very hard and I’m only a kid and I haven’t told anyone
Am just laughing because have been feeling exactly the same
Moisha Kolenbrander says
I am a 21 year old female suffering from severe depersonalisation and derealization for nearly 2 months now. I have experienced these symptoms before, but never as severe as the last few weeks. I have had lots of stress: school, caught covid, a very busy trip to italy and then came the depersonalisation/derealization and my panic attacks and sleepless nights returned… Anyway, there is this weird symptom I am experiencing this time which I have never experienced or read about before. However, you did describe it somewhat: ”Disoriented, like walking upside down or side ways”.
For me, my brain makes me believe that the world is sometimes upside down even though my vision doesn’t. Or i get confused what is left and what is right. Or things just really don’t feel real and just… I can’t even explain it. I do feel lightheaded and dizzy, my hands and arms don’t feel like mine either and another weird thing is that sometimes I feel other people’s movements and limbs as if they were my own…?
Does this sound like DPDR to you in anyway? Is it really just stress/anxiety ? Is this really just a distorted perception of reality?
I can relate totally … I’m no professional but I’ve experienced that same experience . I’ve even had experiences to where I have distorted perception of how far or near something is . It seems like this disorder (for lack of better term) manifests itself in several ways . But if you think about it , it’s all perception . Our minds control perception and our central nervous system controls everything . My symptoms come and go and mostly seem to be thought based . The more I dwell or obsess over the feelings / thoughts the worse they get . I’d never assumed that anxiety could be the culprit but I’ve suffered from anxiety ever since I was a small child . These other oddities and thoughts from depersonalization/derealization have always been there off and on as well . I think the panic that they created has just made them reoccur or worse . I’d always just assumed I was “not normal” or had schizophrenia …
Jeff H Shampnois says
Uncanny resonance. I remember the moment this hit me. I was 13 and I ran to my sister who was in the next room, 14 years older than me. She’d spent 3 years in a mental hospital for something probably similar. Mine hit like an insight. I have to call it that, because (I have to call it that, because the alternative would force me to deny what I saw and I can’t). But this is why I thought it was schizophrenia. I saw the fact that nothing is real, that the world is covered in a glaucoma of sorts, but I saw it in the form of a vision that gave the feeling a backbone of sorts, a logical and undeniable structure that left me feeling that the deeper truth is there’s only this consciousness, and everything is an hallucination from this unlocatable source. There was no proof of any other source, adn the isolation this caused was unbearable. So it’s quite a shock to find your description. I don’t undedrstand how I could have missed the information stream on this thing for so long.
I’m 62 and have been writing about it all my life, not having any name for it till now. This is from my so-called “manifesto” on the topic:
“At the very least it was clear that what I took to be me was only an image, and every attempt to refute this perspective involved the further employment of imagination, extending the fabrication infinitely. It made me acutely conscious of the facsimile nature of everything and everyone. I couldn’t merely “forget it.”
On one particular night, this perspective hit like an electric jolt. I saw an undivided (singular) awareness twisting in and out of stories fabricated to reflexively fend off the horror of an inexplicable isolation. That physical jolt made the vision ironically more real than anything I’d ever felt. The cold horror of that experience was the worst thing I’ve ever known or could imagine knowing. It lasted for months. This happened two more times over the next four years. And the burden of this “knowledge” made the world look colorless, drab.
A few years ago I saw a horse pawing at a stream to reach some flooded grass. It reminded me of what I’d been doing then. I was trying to think my way past this stream of consciousness to reach solid ground.
At the time, I couldn’t tell anybody about this because I couldn’t trust they were there. Even now, the fear residing in that perspective radiates some heat. So it feels a little flippant to say this now, but I think in the end the experience was something very good, because it opened up a new perspective on what “I” am, and on reality itself.
Thanks isn’t sufficient or entirely the word I need. But I’d give you a hug if I could.
Even though I’m 62, the only description I ever found that described the condition (from my perspective) was a passage in an obscure book about Beckett:
“…Watt (a Beckett character) has perceived the fact that the I-as-object has no validity and that the subject of such perception is thereby implied. He admits that the discovery is a distressing realization — often, when that fact is discovered accidentally, the experience can be a considerable shock — for nothing could be affirmed as real, that is, not bearing the stamp of the conceiving part of the mind. H describes the moment of realization as “false” and adds that he finds the experience more disturbing than anything else that had affected him” (page 42).
If you’d like to see how I’ve processed this experience over the course of almost 50 years, my website is Negative Geography. Thanks.
Jeff H Shampnois says
I’m making it sound more intellectual than what it was. I’m describing above the nature of the rationalization that followed the onset of this thing. I was able to conceive of the source of this panic as a confusion of thought and thing. This gave the horror a certain handle, not much, but a little at first. Thanks again.
Ive been having these experiences off and on since I can remember . It’s very scary and it seems like they are getting worse each time I experience them . I feel cut off from reality , have nonsensical thoughts that I can’t even fully explain . The fear of how I feel and these thoughts makes me feel like I’m going to lose it at times . I feel like everything is alien or foreign to me . I’ll question why people are doing what they are doing and what the purpose of it all is . I’ll still be sharp and aware of everything and totally be able to hide what I’m experiencing but behind the facade is dread , panic and is just terrible .
I’m almost 50 now and I remember having my first experience with these feeling when I was really young . I remember it resulting from feeling anxious and depressed . The depression brought on scary thoughts about existentialism and the meaning of life . Scary thoughts for a child . So my whole life I’ve dealt with these feeling and have always been an anxious person . I just always chalked it up to something being “wrong” with me .
I had really bad episodes of this when smoking marijuana . I’d get real bad anxiety and lose it to the point of sheer terror . So having these feelings and thought while not under the influence of anything is even scarier because it makes me think I’m schizo or going to go completely insane . I can’t enjoy anything because I feel like I’m on another planet sometimes and the thoughts just reoccur . It’s more of a general feeling of dread , emptiness , loneliness and isolation . Then when I start worrying about the feelings and the thoughts I start to get bad anxiety and panic . What’s amazing is I still go to work , function daily and keep my normal routine even though I feel like I just want to curl up and not think / feel about anything . Sleep is a little relief but I can feel it li Geri g in the background like a coiled up snake ready to strike .
Anyway , I hope this isn’t a dead forum and I really hope that everyone going through this is getting better . It was funny reading your article because it was like everything you were saying was hitting the nail on the head . I had never read anything like this in my life and until recently didn’t even know what derealization or depersonalization even was . It’s relieving to read something that rings true to how I feel yet the “demon” in the background tries to just keep telling me that it’s something worse (lol , don’t worry I mean that figuratively and don’t actually hear a demon) . So I’m just wondering if anyone relates to this and if it indeed sounds like dp/dr ? It’s amazing what the mind and body can do and I hope someday to return back to my normal self
Jörg Müller says
I have DpDr and wonder, did you felt even in your own Home like a Stranger, just like, you dont belong in there?