Depersonalization how to overcome it

How to Deal With Depersonalization Disorder and Come Back to Your Reality

Rashmi Parmar, M.D., a psychiatrist at Mindpath Health, formerly Community Psychiatry, discusses depersonalization disorder, that persistent recurrent feeling of being detached from one’s self.

Experts explain what causes it, what the symptoms are, and how to treat it.

Many of us have found ourselves going through the motions and lacking a sense of presence at times. But if you experience these feelings of confusion about what you’re doing, where you are, and maybe even who you are frequently, it might mean you have a dissociative disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, dissociative disorders are “mental health disorders that involve experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity.”

A common but not often-talked about dissociative disorder is depersonalization, which New York-based neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez says is when you feel detached from your thoughts and body. “The disorder is feeling as if you are observing yourself in a dream or from outside your body,” she explains.

Depersonalization disorder often gets confused with derealization disorder, yet while the two are similar, there are key differences. Ahead, learn what those differences are, including more about the symptoms of depersonalization, what causes it, and how to treat it.

What is depersonalization disorder?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, depersonalization is a dissociative disorder described as a persistent or recurrent feeling of being detached or estranged from one’s self. As Board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Rashmi Parmar explains, “a person might feel like they are an outside observer of their thoughts, feelings, actions, or body.”

Depersonalization disorder can cause significant distress and impairment because a person is living in an altered perception of their own life. However, it isn’t a psychotic illness or delusion because they are aware of these disconnected feelings. “Patients often describe it to me as an incredibly scary and uncomfortable experience,” says Dr. Parmar.

What causes depersonalization?

There can be many causes of depersonalization disorder. Dr. Hafeez says a traumatic event or prolonged stress, such as a sudden death or witnessing or experiencing extreme violence, can often trigger the disorder. It’s also frequently associated with other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or schizophrenia.

Dr. Parmar adds that depersonalization disorder can also be caused by physical changes or disruptions in your body, like neurological illnesses such as epilepsy or complicated migraines, drug or alcohol withdrawal, or side effects from certain sedative medications.

What are the symptoms of depersonalization disorder?

“The main symptoms include, but are not limited to feeling robotic and not in control of your movements or speech, inability to describe or recognize emotions, and feeling disconnected to your mind, sensations, or body,” Dr. Hafeez.

The Mayo Clinic notes that it’s also common to feel a sense of emotional and physical numbness, detachment from your memories as though they aren’t your own, and a distorted perception of your body, like your limbs are enlarged or shrunken.

What’s the difference between depersonalization and derealization?

Both derealization and depersonalization involve feelings of disconnect, but depersonalization is how you view yourself, while derealization involves how you view the outside world. “So in essence, the former condition (depersonalization) directs the unreal perception towards the inner self whereas the other involves projecting this feeling on the environment,” says Dr. Parmar.

“Derealization is when you feel as if you’re observing the world through a veil and feel detached from your environment and the people and objects in it,” adds Dr. Hafeez. Symptoms include feelings of being in a dream, like you’re living in an unreal or artificial world, distorted perceptions of sound, and feelings of time passing too fast or too slow.

What is the treatment for depersonalization disorder?

According to Dr. Parmar, most people will experience depersonalization or derealization at some point in their lives. However, if it begins to interfere with your ability to function or seems like it doesn’t go away, it’s necessary to seek help. The most common way to treat depersonalization disorder is through psychotherapy.

“Psychotherapy can help individuals learn techniques or coping mechanisms that distract them from their symptoms and make them feel more connected to their feelings and the world around them,” says Dr. Hafeez.

Dr. Parmar says reducing stress levels can also play a vital role in treating depersonalization disorder. “Use of stress reduction techniques like relaxation skills, mindfulness, and distraction can be quite effective,” she notes. “Maintenance of a well-structured routine with adequate nutrition, hydration, sleep, and exercise may also help in reducing symptoms.”

If you’re having an episode of depersonalization, distracting yourself by throwing cold water on your face, doing sudden quick movements like jumping jacks, or engaging in deep breathing can help bring your awareness back to reality, says Dr. Parmar. And in addition to psychotherapy, both experts say prescribed medications, like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, can be helpful.

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional to help you get your life back on track.


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What It Is and How to Overcome It

When I experienced depersonalization for the first time, a thick sensation of unreality steamrolled into my life — a dizzying, dream-like “nothing feels real” type of haze.

The more I obsessed over this bizarre feeling, the worse it got.

So, I turned to Google. After searching countless variations of “everything feels weird,” I landed on the answer: Depersonalization.

Although episodes of depersonalization can feel like a rollercoaster ride for one, those who have experienced it have lots of company. Up to 75% of people experience depersonalization at least once in their lifetime, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In psychology speak, American Psychological Association (APA) defines depersonalization as “a state of mind in which the self appears unreal. Individuals feel estranged from themselves and usually from the external world, and thoughts and experiences have a distant, dreamlike character.”

Some report feeling like they’re living in a dream or movie, alienated from what once felt familiar. Others feel like they’re an outside observer of their thoughts or body, stuck in a disconnected state of autopilot.

A quick PSA: Depersonalization isn’t the same thing as psychosis. It’s quite the opposite, actually.

People experiencing depersonalization are fully aware that the distorted sensations and freaky feelings aren’t real, which is what makes it so damn scary.

The intensity varies from person to person, situation to situation.

For me, it was like someone flipped on a “make literally everything weird as hell” switch. Mundane things suddenly seemed painfully obtuse.

I felt out of it all the time — like I was perceptually drunk but with a sober mind.

“Depersonalization is a symptom, not an indication that something is wrong with you,” says Shari Botwin, LCSW, a licensed therapist with years of experience working with clients who have experienced depersonalization.

Experts from the American Psychiatric Association agree: Dissociative episodes and disorders like depersonalization are often a direct result of high-stress levels, trauma, depression, or anxiety.

Mind-boggling as it might be, there’s a clear physiological explanation for depersonalization. And if you’re anything like me, once you understand it, you’ll likely feel some relief.

When we experience anxiety or enter a state of “fight or flight,” our blood flow slows down. Blood is redirected to our extremities — arms and legs, rather than our heads — which can cause depersonalization’s light-headed, “out of body” feeling.

Managing or reducing your anxiety is the key to quieting this discomforting sensation.

I won’t sugarcoat it. Dealing with depersonalization is no walk in the park. But with the right understanding and support, you can and will feel like yourself again. The steps below are a good place to start.

“The first step to coping with depersonalization is naming it and recognizing that it’s happening,” says Botwin.

Putting your experience into words legitimizes how you’re feeling and “talking with loved ones and describing your experience will make you feel less alone,” explains Botwin.

Some research even suggests that acknowledging certain emotions — sadness, anger, and pain — can decrease their overall intensity.

This can, in turn, decrease your overall stress level and create space for more positive emotions to take effect.

Believe it or not, the best way to fast track to “feeling normal” is to do “normal” things. I know, I know. It’s the most “are you kidding me?” advice to hear, but I swear it’s legit.

If you stay inside all day isolated and obsessing over strange sensations or existential thoughts, you’re dumping gasoline onto an already raging fire. Trust me on this one.

Some of my anxious days were like, “OK, this is just annoying now, and I want it to stop,” whereas others were more “code-red-level-3000-panic about every weird sensation.” Things got worse when I had too much time to think.

Get your rest but keep moving forward. Every moment is a new opportunity to start fresh.

“Developing awareness about how you experience this symptom will help you plant your feet on the ground and get you back into your body,” explains Botwin.

Even if it feels like you’re mentally gliding through the Matrix, moving your body with intention can help reduce anxiety and bring your mind back to the here and now.

You might try the following:

  • Walk to the mailbox and back or take a long stroll through a nearby park.
  • Hold an ice cube in your hand or glide it across your body.
  • Jog in place or do a few jumping jacks.
  • Take inventory of what’s around you by writing down five things you can see, hear, and feel.

It may feel impossible at first, but with practice, mindful movement can become an incredible tool to self-soothe.

On and off over the years, my anxiety has mimicked a shitty game of Whac-A-Mole, popping up seemingly at random. Until I learned what was setting it off, that is.

My therapist always says, “anxiety is information.” So, it should be no surprise that figuring out the root cause of your anxiety can help you stop it in its tracks.

We might not be able to prevent every little anxious feeling for the rest of our days, but we can change how we respond to it.

“Heightened states of fear and stress can trigger depersonalization as a response,” explains Botwin. “Talk to yourself and say things like: ‘I am okay. My body and mind are reacting to a feeling from an earlier event, but all is well at this moment.'”

It’s the epitome of “easier said than done,” but with time, wholly doable. I’ve learned to tell myself “damn, there I go again. This is uncomfortable, but it will pass.”

I still have tough days, but I have far more trust in myself that things will truly be okay.

For many folks, talk therapy — specifically psychotherapy — is the best way to overcome depersonalization.

Amid my toughest days, getting the reassurance that I was truly okay and healthy was everything in my healing journey.

It’s a long game, doing the investigative work to peel back the layers around why you’re so damn anxious, but more often than not, a successful one.

“Remind yourself that depersonalization is a common symptom, especially for people with a history of trauma or anxiety,” says Botwin. “Developing coping strategies that work for you can make a difference.”

Episodes of anxiety and depersonalization are a way for your body to sound the alarm that something isn’t quite working. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed about a big life change, for example, or noticing misalignment in a close relationship.

Learning to listen to your body will serve you well in the long run. Chip away at the source of depersonalization — anxiety — and you’ll squash it for good. You’ve got this.

Sarah Lempa is a writer and entrepreneur as the founder of Dang Fine Creative, a digital content agency. In her writing, she covers travel, mental health, business, sex and relationships, along with whatever else is currently inspiring. Her words have appeared in Business Insider, VICE, HuffPost, Lonely Planet, and more. While originally from the Chicago area, she’s called multiple countries home and has ventured across six continents along the way. When she’s not chipping away at a piece, you’ll find her jamming out to groovy beats or riding a motorcycle. Keep up with Sarah on Instagram.

How to get rid of derealization and depersonalization

If you encounter symptoms of "haze" or "veil" in your head, feelings of unreality of both what is happening around you and your own "I". If you feel that your emotions seem to have become more faded and blunted, that you have lost emotional connection with what usually gives you joy, then this article is for you.

In it I will tell you how to get rid of derealization and depersonalization , explain what it is and list symptoms . I will not advise taking pills, as they do not eliminate the cause of this ailment. I will tell you about safe, effective and natural ways to solve this problem for good.

This article is based both on the advice of Western psychologists (I must admit that in our country the methods of working with derealization are poorly developed), and on personal experience of getting rid of derealization.

Some time ago, as a result of severe stress, I experienced panic attacks and anxiety. The most annoying thing about this was that the sudden attacks of fear, panic and constant anxiety were accompanied by other symptoms. One of them was a feeling of "haze", "fog" in the head, a feeling of some kind of "isolation" from the outside world and from one's own emotions. nine0003

At first I thought it was some kind of serious mental illness. When these symptoms appeared, I became very worried, unable to get rid of restless thoughts about my condition. Then it got even worse. Even when there was no derealization, I was still afraid: “What if this feeling comes back? Is this a symptom of insanity?

But now I recall my worries with calm humor. All this is long in the past. Now I am in a state of deep and strong connection with my feelings and the outside world. I see the world clearly. I do not feel that life is passing somewhere away from me. I feel like I'm alive. nine0003

Here I am going to share with you effective derealization and depersonalization techniques that helped me get out of this state.

By the way, subscribe to my Instagram at the link below. Regular useful posts about self-development, meditation, psychology and getting rid of anxiety and panic attacks.

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Symptoms of derealization and depersonalization

What is derealization and how does it differ from depersonalization? In short, derealization is a feeling of the unreality of what is happening around (or a certain “isolation”, “remoteness” from external events), and depersonalization is a feeling of the unreality of what is happening inside. nine0003

Derealization (as well as depersonalization) in most cases is not an independent disorder. Most often, it is simply one of the symptoms of panic disorder (panic attacks) and/or anxiety disorder. However, if you experience these symptoms, it's always best to see a doctor just in case, to be 100% sure that your derealization is due to anxiety and not something else!

Symptoms of derealization

  • Feeling of "haze" or "veil" in the head
  • Feeling as if signals from the outside world are reaching us late
  • The state of an "observer" torn off from external reality, who perceives this reality as a film
  • Ordinary things (beautiful scenery, favorite people or objects, entertainment) do not evoke an emotional response
  • The state in which we live this life as if in a dream

Symptoms of depersonalization

  • Feeling of "fading", "dullness" of one's own emotions and experiences
  • Feeling that both our body and our emotions seem foreign to us
  • Feeling of unreality ("blurring" "uncertainty") of one's own self

Accompanying symptom for both conditions

  • Anxiety and anxiety about the state of derealization/depersonalization

In principle, these statuses accompany each other. Moreover, many researchers do not distinguish between them at all. One way or another, when we are aware of the external world, we still “filter” information about it through the prism of our internal perception, which is also aware of the internal world. In other words, a person does not have two separate types of perception for external and internal reality. Perception is one. nine0003

And if this perception is “disturbed” (I used this word in quotation marks so that you don’t be afraid: derealization is a safe symptom, but more on that below), then this “disturbance” will inevitably extend to both the sensation of external phenomena and internal .

I described this principle not for abstract philosophizing, but to formulate a practical conclusion:

Methods and principles that will allow you to get rid of derealization will also eliminate depersonalization and vice versa. These two deeply interconnected phenomena do not require two different “treatment” schemes (again, I use quotation marks, because I believe that there is no disease: derealization is a protective mechanism of the psyche; more on that below). nine0003

And in this article, when I write "derealization", I will have in mind both the symptoms of derealization itself and the symptoms of depersonalization.

Why do derealization and depersonalization occur?

This problem is not yet fully understood. Therefore, it is impossible to answer this question with certainty. However, there are scientific theories that try to explain this phenomenon.

Personally, I am a supporter of the theory that derealization is a defense mechanism of our psyche. The whole irony of such an illness as panic attacks lies in the fact that those symptoms that people consider dangerous for their lives, in fact, are designed to save this life in the event of a mortal threat. I'm talking about symptoms of rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, feelings of fear and panic (which are triggered by adrenaline rushes). As I described in the article, the symptoms of a panic attack are all defense mechanisms of our body. nine0003

And derealization is also the same protective function.

One Western study found that on average 50% of people who have experienced a traumatic event experience symptoms of derealization. Surely you have heard stories of people who got into dangerous, stressful situations and described their experience as: “It seemed to me that this was not happening to me”, “It was like it was in a dream.”

These are the symptoms of derealization. In moments of stressful events, our psyche, as it were, "closes" from potentially traumatic experiences. And so it seems to us that what is happening is like a dream, that this is not happening to us. And here we can draw the following conclusion:0003

Derealization and depersonalization are not dangerous in and of themselves. These are simply defense mechanisms of our psyche, which seeks to "close" itself from unpleasant experiences.

And you can get rid of this state. I'll tell you how next.

How to get rid of derealization and depersonalization

First advice – get out of the vicious circle of anxiety

afraid of the harm that derealization can cause them. nine0003

First, let me remind you that this condition is not dangerous. Secondly, as we remember, it is very often just one of the symptoms of anxiety. What does it mean? This means that when you start worrying about the symptoms of derealization, you provoke new attacks of anxiety or panic, which in turn increase the derealization!

So relax and try to let go of thoughts about your condition. If derealization has come, then it has come. You are already in “this boat”, so there is no point in worrying and winding yourself up. Relax and try to accept this state. Do not oppose or resist him. It is temporary. Just as it came, it will go. nine0003

You should strive for this, although it is difficult. In people with chronic anxiety, the mind is so anxious that it tends to worry constantly about everything. And when there is no reason, the mind finds it. And at first, it is very difficult to break this established habit and help yourself to relax and stop worrying. However, it is possible. The following tips will partly deal with this problem.

Second advice - develop concentration

Psychologists give the following advice. nine0003

If you love to read, then you probably have a plan for what books to read in the future. (And if you don't, it's time to start) Personally, I have a lot of books in my plan that are not very exciting, maybe even boring, but, nevertheless, I think that I need to read them. It can be books on history, science, or even fiction, serious, deep, but not exciting. Read such books.

Try to keep your attention on the text (which will "slip" because the text is not interesting) and return it every time you get distracted. This, firstly, will develop your concentration and certain parts of the brain, and secondly, it will allow you to be closer to the area of ​​\u200b\u200bexperiences. After all, books, after all, stimulate your emotions, give rise to images in your imagination, helping you to be closer to yourself. nine0003

Advice Three - Develop Mindfulness and Sensitivity

In many of my articles, offering to solve various emotional and personal advice, I give advice: "meditate. " So I'm not going to surprise you with originality and give similar advice. No, wait. There is one nuance here.

The more articles I write, the more I work with people who suffer from anxiety and depression, and the more I get feedback from them, the more I want to stop using the term "meditation". nine0003

Not only because it (undeservedly) smacks of something mysterious and mystical. With the development of scientific research on meditation, the world is increasingly aware that meditation is not magic, not a religion, but a completely applied exercise.

The reason why I want to drop this term more and more is the following. When I say "meditation" people often take it as an end in itself. It seems to them that simply sitting in a motionless position will solve all their problems by itself. Therefore, I decided to write more about “techniques for developing awareness, attention, concentration.” From this formulation it becomes clear that meditation is not an end in itself, but only a tool and means for something more. nine0003

Western psychologists agree that mindfulness helps in getting rid of derealization. The first reason this happens is because the state of consciousness that mindfulness practices induce is the opposite of what a person feels during derealization. During derealization, our attention is “scattered”, is in some kind of half-sleep haze, it is not able to clearly and clearly grasp the object, the object of attention becomes unclear, as if blurred, and our emotions and experiences seem to be at a distance from ourselves. nine0003

But during mindfulness practices, on the contrary, we sharpen our attention so that it is aware of the object more clearly, as if we are focusing the lens of our lens, adding clarity to the picture of the world. We also try to become aware of our sensations directly, becoming closer to them.

What actually needs to be done? Your practice will consist of two parts.

"Informal" meditation

Practice mindfulness throughout the day. Try to pay more attention to your immediate feelings. You can do this, for example, while eating. Instead of thinking about other things, "moving away" from your feelings, concentrate on the taste of food in your mouth, on the sensations of how it passes through the esophagus and into the stomach. nine0003

How do you feel in your mouth? Sweetness, bitterness? Heat or cold? What is the taste of food? What do you feel in your stomach? Heaviness or lightness? Warm or cold? Just be with your feelings here and now. Get closer to the realm of direct experience. As soon as your thoughts are distracted from the here and now, bring them back.

The same principle applies to other daily activities: washing dishes, cleaning, exercising, any physical labor, walking. For at least a small part of your day, try not to let your mind wander. Try to be here and now with what your senses are aware of: tastes, smells, colors and colors, tactile sensations, sounds. In this way, you will sharpen and train your attention, returning yourself to a clear and direct perception of life. nine0003

Formal practice:

Formal meditation is the same sitting meditation during which you try to concentrate on one object, such as breathing. There is no magic here. Meditation is a trainer for your attention, your awareness, your self-control, your sensitivity to sensations.

When you meditate, you focus your attention on an object, as if sharpening your focus. Thanks to this, your feelings, experiences become more clear, emotions become more alive and brighter. This, again, is the opposite of derealization, the consequence of which is that emotions are dulled and faded. nine0003

There is a stereotype that meditation is needed to get rid of emotions, to become indifferent. This is not true. The purpose of mindfulness practice is to teach you how to control, accept and let go of your emotions, manage your mind instead of being its pawn. And practice just the same leads to the fact that, as a result of the development of awareness and attention, we begin to perceive life more vividly and richly, in deeper and more distinct colors.

But the meaning of meditation is not only to eliminate derealization as a symptom. Practice will help to cope with the cause of derealization: anxiety, depression, traumatic experiences. nine0003

I wrote above that many people have such a restless mind that it is very difficult for them to relax, to control themselves during anxiety attacks. As soon as emotions and disturbing thoughts appear, they immediately take over such a person, dragging him deeper and deeper into a pool of panic and anxiety.

Meditation allows you to calm the mind, curb anxiety, let go of obsessive thoughts. And gradually, step by step, move towards complete deliverance from panic, fear and anxiety. You can learn how to meditate by reading the article on how to meditate correctly. nine0003

For people who are experiencing symptoms of derealization, I will give the following advice regarding meditation. As an object of concentration, choose the sensations during breathing that arise in the region of the nostrils. Why? Because the sensations there are very subtle and sometimes barely noticeable. This means that in order to feel them, you will need to “sharpen” your own attention, as it were, to focus the lens of your internal lens. This will increase your sensitivity to your own feelings. After I gave this advice to one of the participants in my DON'T PANIC course who was suffering from derealization, she wrote:

As I wrote above, derealization is a consequence of other problems. When your anxiety passes, then the derealization will also disappear. Therefore, I advise you to focus your efforts not on combating a particular symptom, but on solving the general problem of anxiety.

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Trueman, David. Anxiety and depersonalization and derealization experiences. Psychological reports 54.1 (1984): 91-96. Cassano, Giovanni B., et al. nine0003

Derealization and panic attacks: a clinical evaluation on 150 patients with panic disorder/agoraphobia. Comprehensive Psychiatry 30.1 (1989): 5-12.


American Psychiatric Association (2004) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR (Text Revision). American Psychiatric Association. ISBN 0-89042-024-6.

Sierra-Siegert M, David AS (December 2007). "Depersonalization and individualism: the effect of culture on symptom profiles in panic disorder". J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. nineteen5(12): 989–95. doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e31815c19f7. PMID 18091192.


90,000 depersonalization: what is it and how to return yourself to reality

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people among people to know self -playing self -tunnel

GETTY IMAGES leaves from under the feet, and it is not possible to put what is happening around in the head. On days like these, advice to quit caffeine and get grounded feels like psyllium. Useful in the moment, they can seem empty under prolonged stress. nine0003

When circumstances are intense, large-scale and impossible to control, we all find ourselves in a borderline situation for a while. At such moments, it becomes easier to understand people with anxiety disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder (BPD), and bipolar affective disorder (BAD).

From extreme to extreme: do you find it hard to inhale or exhale?

“I was whole and I was broken, I was alive and I was killed”, - the words from the song of the group “Spleen” are, perhaps, one of the most accurate descriptions of a person living in a difficult, borderline situation. It is normal to be inconsistent, unstable and confused. nine0003

Breathing can become an indicator of the intensity of the anxiety experienced by a person. Psychologist Anastasia Dolganova offers to pay attention to what is more difficult to do in a situation of extreme excitement: inhalation or exhalation.

If you catch air but cannot let it out slowly, we are talking about neurotic anxiety

A person can feel it at the moments when he is face to face with repressed, forbidden feelings: aggression, greed, lust, jealousy. nine0003

It is in this case that breathing restoration techniques and mobile meditation applications, as well as self-soothing and returning to reality techniques, are effective for relieving symptoms. In the long run, this can be work on accepting the shadow sides, recognizing ambiguous emotions, and forming a more realistic self-image.

It is more difficult if a person cannot breathe: such a reaction may indicate intense psychotic anxiety

And the techniques for overcoming it will be different. Such anxiety arises against the background of fear of death, meaninglessness, despair and isolation. nine0003

In Existential Psychotherapy, Irvin Yalom gives a personal example of dealing with the fear of death after a car accident. The psychologist speaks of a background experience that he experiences for several months after: "the world began to seem unreliable." He becomes sinister, loses his comfort. The internal boundaries of a person in such a situation are blurred, the usual supports are crumbling.

“We can respond to a crisis of meaning by defensively repressing this theme, by splitting off the consciousness of the suffering part of the personality… We can succumb to despair and become cynical,” write Ursula Wirtz and Jörg Zobeli in The Thirst for Meaning. Man in extreme situations. The limits of psychotherapy. nine0003

Another option is to look for meaning in "dialogue filled with love." If there is a topic for discussion and space for disclosure, there is a real meeting with another person. Thus, according to Wirtz and Zobeli, intimacy is formed, as a deep interaction of people.

In a situation of existential "rolling" there is no more effective way to relieve anxiety than to share it with the Other

Those who are here and now able to hear, understand and accept. Then inexpressible despair and fear begin to take on boundaries, impotence does not go away, but becomes bearable. nine0003

If the dialogue becomes more and more like a game of ping-pong, the interlocutors cannot hear each other, and the conversation resembles two alternating monologues, stepping back and increasing the distance is a saving tactic.

Absurdity, Surprise and Alienation: How to Survive Derealization

When circumstances overwhelm you, it is not easy to cope with it, and sometimes unbearable. In such situations, the human psyche resorts to the most powerful defenses. One of these is depersonalization . It can act as an independent symptom, be one of the manifestations of bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia or depression, as well as a mechanism for protecting a healthy psyche in extreme situations.

If you look at the reflection in the mirror for a long time, for a few seconds your own face may seem unfamiliar, strange and alien. This is one of the simple and short options for depersonalization. At such moments, a person ceases to feel himself and feel at all. And reality begins to seem like the frames of a surreal film. nine0003

Getty Images

There is another similar condition. Do you know that strange feeling when a familiar simple word suddenly turned into a meaningless, empty sound? You repeat it, but you don't seem to recognize it. When something like this happens to the outside world, it's called derealization . The familiar space of a room can become a completely unfamiliar place in a second. This feeling of alienation and unrecognition can be unpleasant, intense, and difficult to bear. For example, Jean-Paul Sartre called this condition nausea. nine0003

“Any human activity — the work that we go to every day, religious ceremonies, daily natural functions — seems strange, if not absurd, if you look at it without emotions and full involvement,” this is how the state of depersonalization is described by Daphne Simeon and Jeffrey Abugel in "I'm not Me. What is depersonalization and how to live with it."

Such detachment can be depressing, frightening and hard to bear. Or, on the contrary, when experiencing the death of a loved one, loss and in a difficult life situation, give the person some relief. nine0003

Not living one's own life, apathy and feeling absurd can last several minutes, days or months

The duration depends on whether the person has a tendency to depersonalize or is it a single reaction to an excessive stimulus. Short-term depersonalization or derealization is quite normal.

Simeon and Abugel say that the ideal way to break the cycle of fear and anxiety is to remove the stressful situations that started it. However, this is not always possible. The authors also talk about the healing power of a psychotherapeutic (and not only) conversation, an attempt to gain control over circumstances (through any creative action). nine0003

Checklist: how to recognize depersonalization
  1. You don't feel anything. Linkin Park's main hit "Numb" describes a state of numbness, a weak feeling of oneself ("I'm so numb that I no longer feel that you are here. / I'm so tired, I began to understand much more" * ). This may be a fairly accurate description of depersonalization.

  2. You are living in a third person. Thoughts, feelings, memories and body - all this is not yours. nine0003

  3. You don't recognize yourself. Your perception distorts the way you see yourself, body parts seem foreign and/or altered, fog in your head and thoughts come with effort. You look at your own hand and seem to take a moment to recognize it as part of you.

  4. You don't feel in control of your body. It seems to move not by your will, but by itself. Speech sounds like from the outside and you do not control it.

Checklist: how to recognize derealization
  1. You are dreaming. Difficult to recognize in the state you are in, reality. Everything is experienced as unreal.

  2. You don't feel attached. Close people are perceived as strangers.

  3. You distort time and forms. The intervals between the past and the future are inadequately expanded: recent events are subjectively perceived as long past. The shapes of objects and their appearance look strange, distorted, unrecognizable - for example, the room seems to be compressed or stretched. nine0003

What can be done to overcome alienation from reality?

Establish a sleep pattern

Circadian rhythm disorder can be a trigger for depersonalization/derealization, as well as affect the degree of its manifestation

Avoid alcohol and other substances that cause an altered state of consciousness

Researchers have not yet found a direct causal relationship found, but often it is these factors that stimulate and prolong the feeling of detachment, insensitivity. nine0003

Check the list of side effects of the medications you take regularly

If you endure depersonalization/derealization painfully and you associate its intensity with a specific drug, this is a reason to consult a specialist, change the pills.

Remember that the experienced state has a beginning and an end

It will not last forever.

Repeat to yourself that depersonalization/derealization is a defensive reaction of the psyche

This is an attempt to separate from the world and avoid a potential threat. Try not to focus on anxiety from the occurrence of such a condition, concentrate on simple routine activities.

Seek contact with another person

With a friend, relative or person with a similar experience. Discuss, share and express feelings.

Talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist

Request feedback and support from a specialist.

* I've become so numb I can't feel you there
I've become so tired so much more aware

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