So what exactly is depersonalisation? Do you even know if you suffer from this anxiety related sensation?
Some people will experience the feelings associated with depersonalisation and have no idea that they are actually part of a recognised symptom of an anxiety or panic disorder.
Ever had the feeling that your head is just all foggy, when everything feels surreal and your head feels woozy or spaced out. Maybe, feeling like you’re not real or your surroundings aren’t real, like you’re living in a dream like state. Those sensations are often some of the hardest to understand and it’s not uncommon to think that you might actually be going mad, which can make you panic even more.
Well, let us just clear this one up before we go any further. This belief that you are losing your mind is completely untrue and you are very safe.
It can be a big help to understand that while the experiences of depersonalisation are uncomfortable and they can feel frightening at the time. Depersonalisation is considered to be protective measure and are not dangerous.
It can occur in people even when they don't have a problem with Anxiety. And can occur in response to a number of stressful situations. You can still have this symptom even when you are not going through a period of anxiety.
As taken from Wikipedia, Depersonalisation is described as:
Depersonalization can consist of a reality or detachment within the self, regarding one's mind or body, or being a detached observer of oneself. Subjects feel they have changed and that the world has become vague, dreamlike, less real, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing experience.
In other words, and as described here by other people who have experienced this sensation:
"I feel like I’m not a part of what is going on in front of my eyes"
"I feel like I’m dreaming, or I’m completely out of touch with reality"
Also people talk about how things around them may seem like they are foggy, cloudy, or too bright.
When depersonalization becomes a chronic condition, it’s listed under the category of Dissociative Disorders. Dissociative Disorders are disruptions in the cohesive function of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception. These disturbances can be sudden or gradual, temporary or chronic.
The sensation of depersonalisation is a great example of how an over stimulated and over worked nervous system can cause sufferers to experience physical sensations, emotions and thoughts acting together.
Put simply, Depersonalisation is a comfort blanket that your mind has placed over you to protect you from the very anxiety that you are going through. It is intended to help you and not hurt you.
It usually manifests itself as a combination of odd and impaired feelings, emotions and perceptions, which can cause you to feel so strange and detached from your surroundings.
These thoughts and feelings can even make sufferers begin to question if they are actually still in their own body.
The sufferer can get so wrapped up and tangled up in their own mind that they seem to lose all connections with the outside world.
Fortunately, depersonalisation is the same as any other symptom or sensation you might be experiencing, it means you are having suffering from anxiety and it has absolutely nothing to do with losing your mind.
All of these sensations caused by anxiety mean the same thing. Some are physical, some are emotional and some are generated by thoughts, they are just different ways of experiencing the same reaction to fear.
It can be very hard to go about your everyday activities without being affected by these sensations. Trying to work, drive, go shopping when you feel disconnected from your mind and body is enough to provoke more anxiety in anyone. So it is not uncommon to hear of people avoiding situations because of the way they feel.
Sometimes the feelings of Depersonalisation alone can bring so much anxiety to a person, that the sufferer experiences a panic attack as a direct result.
What can we do to help ourselves?
Accept and acknowledge that the feeling is here and it’s happening right now, look at these feelings and know that they are part of this protective measure known as depersonalisation
Accept that although it may not feel very nice, it’s not life threatening, you are not in any real danger and it will pass in time
Try bringing your awareness to the present moment. Carry on with your normal daily routine and try not to focus on the sensation. Or become engaged in a new task, or talk to people around you.
As you become more engaged in the present moment, you will notice the symptom starts to fade
The intensity of the feelings of depersonalisation may take days or perhaps weeks to reduce, but just know that it will pass and it will pass even quicker if you can remove your fears of it and continue to move forward.
If you are taking medication for your anxiety, there is a possibility that they could be contributing to your feelings of depersonalisation. Certain types of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications can emphasise these feelings. Speak to your GP about this being a possibility and see if there are any alternative options. Please do not stop taking any of your medications without speaking to your GP first.
If you are not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can be an accompanying reason as to why you are experiencing depersonalisation.
Try looking at making changes to your diet, try and remove caffeine and alcohol from your daily intake.
All of these things will help with the huge number of symptoms and sensations you might experience whilst suffering from anxiety. The important thing is to remember that, although distressing and uncomfortable, the symptoms and sensations caused by anxiety and panic attacks are not dangerous.
If depersonalisation is affecting your daily life, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Your GP will no doubt have seen many similar patients who are struggling to come to terms with certain symptoms of anxiety, and will be able to offer you some advice and reassurance.