Depersonalization and derealization disorder (DP/DR) can be a strange and scary mental health issue where you feel disconnected from yourself and your environment. However, you can fully recover from DP/DR.
Does real life feel dreamy to you? Are you feeling disconnected from yourself? Feel like you are watching a movie about yourself? Do you feel out of it, generally?
If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, then you might be suffering from depersonalization and derealization disorder (DP/DR). And if that is the case, read this article in its entirety to understand what you’re going through and how you can recover from it.
Here I wanted to write an easy-to-understand article about depersonalization and derealization. I want you to know the basics of how you can recover from this illness. All of this is covered in depth in my online course, DP No More. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to recover from DP/DR, be sure to check it out.
Most people reading this might have some fundamental understanding of what DP/DR is, but in the interest of someone who is just getting started, here are the basics.
Depersonalization (DP) and derealization (DR) are dissociative disorders.
When you feel as though you are not yourself, or you feel as though you are watching a movie about yourself, then you may be experiencing depersonalization.
And when you feel as if you are living in a dream world, or when your environment looks strange or unreal, then that can be a sign of derealization.
Most often, people who experience one of these disorders will experience the other to a certain degree.
Major Causes of Depersonalization and Derealization
There are a few reasons why someone can come to feel this way. Let me list out some of the major causes and triggers.
- Adverse Reaction to Marijuana or Weed: Many people, especially teenagers, smoke marijuana or eat edibles containing cannabis, not knowing their personal limit. When they experience a strong reaction, they start panicking. Once the panic sets in, they are not sure what to do. Most people don’t know how to successfully handle a panic attack. They may even experience a full-blown panic attack. After that, they may feel disconnected from their environment and themselves. One may try to sleep it off, hoping it will go away after some rest. Yet, they wake up to find that they cannot shake off this feeling.
- Through Chronic Stress: Stress can create havoc in your body. It upsets the delicate balance inside us. Stress can increase the levels of certain hormones in the body, namely adrenaline and cortisol. Such an increase in hormonal levels can lead to developing depersonalization and derealization from stress. Some examples of chronic stress can be an abusive relationship, going through a divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, and even lockdowns and pandemics can put severe stress on someone.
- From Trauma: Psychological trauma is a kind of damage that happens to one’s mind and body. This kind of damage is especially common in childhood when we are the most vulnerable, but it is also possible to develop trauma in adulthood from a severely distressing event.
Common causes for developing trauma in childhood are physical and sexual abuse. When our caregivers are emotionally callous with us, it’s possible to develop trauma from that as well. One can also develop trauma from war, from an automotive accident, burglary, etc.
The body and mind dissociate so that a person can function in these kinds of high-stress environments. Depersonalization and derealization may happen as a way of preventing such a breakdown. We may feel cut off from our negative emotions, so we don’t get overwhelmed. But as a result, we get cut off from positive emotions, like love and happiness, as well. We may become numb and the world might feel unreal. We lose our sense of self and may feel like a lost soul wandering the planet.
There are a number of other causes that could trigger DP/DR as well. I have an article listing out over 12 different causes and triggers of depersonalization and derealization.
What are the Symptoms?
Ok, so what about the symptoms? While each person experiences DP/DR in a slightly different way, most people experience certain common symptoms. Here are some major symptoms of DP/DR:
- Detachment from self, feeling as though one is watching a movie about oneself.
- A sense that one is not in control of one’s thoughts and actions.
- Reality may seem dreamlike or unreal.
- Emotional numbness, unable to feel joy or love.
- Distorted sense of time.
- Disconnection from memories and the past.
- Prone to many fearful thoughts like, “Am I going crazy?”
- Excessively concerned with existential questions like, “Why am I here? How do I exist? Is existence real or is it a dream?”
- Wondering, “Am I dead and in some kind of purgatorial world?”
- Experiencing somatic symptoms like blunt pressure on the forehead, general dizziness, weightlessness in hands and legs, and tightness in the chest.
- Blank mind, or experiencing no thoughts or inner monologue.
- Perceptual alterations, like visual snow or a halo around lights, and tinnitus.
You can experience a variety of other symptoms that are not listed here as well. The DP/DR experience can sometimes produce unique symptoms for a particular individual that may be absent for others.
DP/DR Can Induce These Fears and More
Now that we’ve seen a list of the major symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the fears one can experience when going through DP/DR. Most people who go through DP/DR tend to become really afraid to the point that it starts affecting their quality of life. They can experience the following fears:
- Fear of insanity or going crazy.
- Fear of never getting better. The sufferer may see no light at the end of the tunnel. One can think that it will always be like this.
- Fear of developing schizophrenia or other mental illnesses.
- Constant feeling of doom. Never wanting to leave your safe space, such as your room.
There can be a lot more. With DP/DR, you become someone who is afraid all the time. Even people who were once very courageous and brash can become a shell of their former selves. Being in this constant fear-mode can lead to panic attacks. This can debilitate your life. You stop seeing friends or you stop opening up to your family because you think they might not be able to understand you.
As each day goes by, you become more hopeless. You can also develop depression while going through depersonalization. This happened to me. I went through years of DP/DR with no hope in sight. But over time, through many trials and errors, I was fortunate to stumble onto the path of recovery. With the right understanding, and some effort from your side, you can definitely overcome this disorder as well.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s this: you can recover.
The Path to Recovery
The path to recovery from DP/DR consists of the following 4 major steps:
- Build the right understanding
- Establish a foundation of safety
- Change the way we react to DP/DR and it’s symptoms
- Resolve underlying issues
- Cultivate patience
Let’s look at these in detail
Build the Right Understanding
Recovery from an illness always starts with the right understanding of that illness. Until now, you may not have had a clear idea of DP/DR, or perhaps you may even be misinformed. There’s a lot of incorrect information out there. This lack of knowledge or having incorrect information may be keeping you from recovering.
If this is the case, then you need to educate yourself about this condition. Read the articles on my blog, watch the rest of the videos on my YouTube channel. Slowly, you’ll understand what is happening to you. With that right understanding, you’ll see that what you’re experiencing is nothing out of the ordinary. This will help you calm yourself down. This is the first step.
If you’re looking for a complete guide that will help you build this right understanding, and help you get to recovery, then check out DP No More, my online course for depersonalization and derealization recovery that is based on neuroscience and has been responsible for so many success stories.
Establish a Foundation of Safety
DP/DR takes away our feeling of safety. This is the primary reason you feel threatened by DP/DR. You feel unsafe, and because of that, you tend to get scared. And this fear keeps you from recovering. So to overcome this, you are going to build a solid foundation of safety. This will help you not get scared of DP/DR symptoms. You falsely judge DP/DR as a threat even when it’s not. So learn the truth behind DP/DR and use that to create a sense of safety that has gone missing from your life. Check out a simple strategy to feel safe during depersonalization and derealization.
Change Your Approach to DP/DR
DP/DR may torment you at the moment. You feel like if you don’t fight it day and night, it will just consume you. But what if this approach is totally wrong? What if fighting the DP/DR symptoms is what’s keeping it going in the first place? Is there a better way to deal with these symptoms instead?
Fighting the DP/DR does not work. Even though that’s what your instincts are telling you to do now, fighting the symptoms only makes things worse. Instead, you must learn to accept the symptoms and ride them out. If that sounds confusing, then you’ve got to read the following articles:
Resolve Underlying Issues
You might be a victim of trauma or someone who is going through a stressful time. Your body and mind might have become stuck with DP/DR because of these underlying issues. You are going to learn how to relieve yourself of stress and trauma. In doing so, you are going to find relief from DP/DR and its symptoms.
If you are stuck in a terrible relationship or job, then without resolving that first, you won’t have a successful recovery from DP/DR. If you are spending most of your time indoors and are just playing with your phone without eating properly and living a normal healthy life, then how can you recover?
I understand you may be stuck indoors because of the lockdown, but even then you can ensure that you eat healthy, exercise, and don’t overuse social media, or watch the news all day, or fall prey to other addictions.
Some of you may be doing everything right, yet still experience DP/DR. If that’s the case, then see if there’s anything in your life that is out of balance. Maybe you are not even aware of what’s really bothering you. A good question to ask is, “If DP/DR were to vanish tomorrow, what else in my life bothers me?” Figure that out and see if you can work on resolving those issues. Working with a good therapist can help in this process.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to learn to be patient. Recovery from DP/DR does not happen overnight. It takes time. And during that time, your intensity can seem to go up and down. You will get breaks from DP/DR for a few hours or weeks, and then you’ll get hit with the symptoms again. This is a setback. But don’t lose heart. Keep doing what you were doing before, that is, follow the principles outlined in this blog.
Slowly but surely, your body and mind will heal. They know how to heal. That healing mechanism is part of us. Trust that healing process and just let go.
Alright, that’s mostly it. I wanted to write something that can help someone develop a basic idea of what DP/DR is and how to recover from it. If you’re currently struggling with DP/DR and are looking for a step-by-step plan to get your recovery started, then look into DP No More. It’s the course that I wish I had when I was going through DP/DR. So that’s why after fully recovering from DP/DR, I created the best online resource out there that guides people towards recovery. So many people have been able to recover with the help of DP No More and you can be one of them as well.
Anyway, I hope this article was informative. I wish you a successful full recovery! Stay hopeful, stay positive. You’ll get through this.
P.S. Are you trying to help someone going through DP/DR?
Here are some articles that will help you:
All images are from Pixabay