What Does Depersonalization Disorder Feel Like?
People affected by Depersonalization and Derealization will describe their symptoms as a detachment from reality and that they are living a dream (as if they’re outside their body, observing of themselves). That is what depersonalization feels like.
Derealization on the other hand, is a detachment from the environment: feeling that everything around them isn’t real. Another variation of this is the feeling that they don’t exist and when they are in a public area, nobody notices them.
You might of heard the phrase ‘reality testing’ being used when researching about DPD and how ‘reality testing’ remains in tact for individuals with DPD. What this means is, unlike other disorders such as psychosis, the person is aware that what they experience is only a feeling and that the world isn’t actually an illusion. People with DPD may think they are going insane, but this has been described as almost the opposite of insanity: being hyperaware of one’s surroundings. I’ll talk more about this later on, when we explore the cause of DPD, but now the big question:
Do you Have Depersonalization Disorder (DPD)?
Now, here’s where it starts getting a bit tricky. One can experience Depersonalization and Derealization symptoms, but not be diagnosed with Depersonalization Disorder (DPD). In these circumstances, they are just symptoms rather than the person having the disorder itself. The symptoms of Depersonalization and Derealization are actually quite common in panic attacks, phobias (including social anxiety), PTSD, and acute stress. Furthermore, alcohol and drugs are known to cause this problem as well. So simply having these symptoms doesn’t mean you are affected by DPD.
So, first of all, in order for a diagnosis of DPD to be possible, you must ensure that the feeling of Depersonalization doesn’t only occur due to the above reasons, for instance, if it only occurs during a panic attack, then it is a symptom of anxiety rather than DPD itself. Secondly, the symptoms must be persistent and must be severe enough to impair one’s daily life functioning in order to become a disorder. If you still think you have DPD, then don’t worry, because there are steps you can take immediately to eliminate your Depersonalization Disorder for good, and worrying is the opposite of what you must do. Before we get to how to cure Depersonalization Disorder, it’s important to know what causes it.
Depersonalization Disorder Causes and the Depersonalization Cure
Most of the time, DPD is caused by chronic childhood trauma or abuse and a lack of social support in one’s life. The main thing to note here is the word ‘chronic’ since having one or two traumatic events occur isn’t likely to bring about DPD: it’s the recurring trauma that causes the altering of the brain. Most likely it’s due to family issues especially with one’s parents.
Due to the experience of some chronic trauma, people might start to become hypervigilant of social situations as a protective mechanism. Depersonalization is just a way of coping with the event, especially when there is a lack of social support. This is one of the most common Depersonalization Disorder causes: Evidence has shown that prolonged stress/anxiety/depression have been known to cause changes in the amygdala, the area responsible for causing this hypervigilance.
My advice for those with DPD is to firstly accept what has happened in the past and acknowledge that this is what caused your DPD. Next, start relaxing everyday: do meditation or any activities you find fun. It can be difficult for people with DPD to relax, so seeking help from a therapist might be the best option, especially since they’ll be able to help with other disorders preventing you from relaxing such as anxiety disorders/phobias.
Another cause of DPD is mistaking a symptom as a disorder, as mentioned previously. Sometimes, an experience of depersonalization can be quite normal and will go away on its own, however, when one starts to worry about it and think they are mentally ill, it can start to be a recurring thing, especially since they bring on unnecessary anxiety. In other words they experience a cycle where:
1. They experience a casual depersonalization symptom that will go away on its own.
2. They fear they are mentally crazy and this causes a great deal of anxiety
3. This anxiety causes the symptoms to reappear at a heightened degree of severity
4. The cycle repeats and it gets worse over time.
So the common theme is DPD is caused and made worse by stress or anxiety. In order to dissolve DPD for good, it is crucial to eliminate these stressors. Treatment of DPD involves alleviating anxiety disorders and depression to enable relaxation. It may seem that DPD has progressed so severely that it can’t be cured, but once you are able to relax, your feelings of depersonalization and derealization will gradually dissipate over time. Remember chronic depression, stress and anxiety will cause negative changes in the brain, so start relaxing more in your life and remove all the unnecessary/irrational causes of stress.
Read more from Sociable Introvert: How to cure depersonalization disorder
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