What is Derealisation?
Derealisation – also known as ‘feeling detached from self and surroundings’ – occurs in almost everyone who experiences excessive anxiety and panic disorder. Derealisation occurs when our reality and surroundings feel and appear distorted and we become highly aware that we feel ‘different’ from our usual selves. Similar to derealisation is the symptom of depersonalisation. This is when the focus is mainly on the self and it feels like the person who is experiencing it is ‘observing’ themselves. People with the symptoms of derealisation and depersonalisation can often relate to these statements:
The Symptoms of Derealisation (as thoughts):
- I know the room I am in, but I don’t feel like I’m here
- I am stood here but it feels like I’m floating
- Everything doesn’t seem as it is
- I can hear myself talk, but it isn’t me who is talking
- I feel like I’m living in the world that I see in the mirror
- I feel like a robot simulating myself as a human being
- I can feel and see myself existing in third person
It’s common for many sufferers to feel very lucid at times of derealisation and almost entirely detached from their surroundings. Many have described it as feeling like they are uncomfortably floating, or as if they’re existing in a room in third person.
You could be, for example, in a certain place that’s very familiar to you, but the natural feelings and recognition associated with the place are missing. Feelings of vertigo, light headedness and tunnel vision are also common when identifying an episode of derealisation. It’s important to understand that episodes of derealisation can be responsible for a large number of panic attacks and can often act as the trigger due to it seemingly creeping up from nowhere and being immediately misunderstood.
People often find it extremely difficult to relax at times of derealisation and often fall into the trap of trying to over-think a way out of it. Over time derealisation can outweigh feelings of normality and can actually present itself for a longer periods of time compared to being in a ‘normal’, settled state. This gives the victim a false projection of reality, causing all sorts of problems and swaying a person’s perception of the world around them. Feelings of derealisation are completely harmless and will pass with time, patience and a change in behaviour habits.
What causes Derealisation?
Derealisation occurs as a result of a stressful routine and an accumulation of negative thoughts and behaviours. It can also appear as the result of trauma. It’s a sign that the body’s nervous system is hypersensitive and that the body is also currently working on a chemical imbalance by releasing all sorts of chemicals into the blood stream.
Feeling lucid and detached from your surroundings is also an indicator that there is an abnormal amount of adrenaline floating around your system. High amounts of adrenaline cause us to become hypersensitive and it temporarily alters our nervous system – putting us on high alert for signs of a ‘problem’ or danger, causing us to intricately analyse ourselves and our surroundings.
During episodes of high or abnormally flowing adrenaline, our bodies change in response to the chemical. Our peripheral vision shuts down, our breathing alters and our ability to focus becomes difficult. Feeling detached from our surroundings – particularly when we don’t know why we feel detached – can be extremely frightening for those who find it hard to deal with a lack of control. However the feelings inevitably subside as the adrenal gland will either stop releasing as much adrenaline or will eventually exhaust itself.
Is Derealisation Permanent?
When derealisation is linked to anxiety or a panic disorder, its existence usually dissipates when the overall anxiety is addressed. If derealisation and depersonalisation is causing you excessive worry, or you have experienced it for a long time, then you should consult your doctor in order to rule out any other causes.
The lasting nature of derealisation depends on how much worry and importance is attached to it. Unfortunately, like many symptoms of anxiety, the presence of derealisation perpetuates the more we worry about it. By worrying about feeling strange and detached, we actively release the chemicals that cause worry, which are also responsible for feelings of derealisation and depersonalisation. When the underlying anxiety is addressed and the reaction to the derealisation changes, this strange symptom of anxiety is likely to disappear.
If you are going through feelings of derealisation and depersonalisation, you needn’t worry as the symptom is remarkably common and, in most cases, physically harmless. If you are overly concerned that it is recommended that you talk things through with a medical professional.
Derealisation after feeling ‘normal’
It is also common for people to experience feelings of derealisation and depersonalisation after a period of relief or calm. This is due to the body trying to ‘rebalance’ itself after being subjected to large amounts of adrenaline on a persistent basis. Unfortunately, this is often mistaken for something serious and is often the kick starter for long periods of worry and obsessive behaviour. The worry about this common anxiety symptom often perpetuates its intensity alongside triggering other physical symptoms. In a lot of cases involving panic disorder, the feelings of derealisation that arise after a form of relief or calm are often regarded as the starting point for the worry associated with anxiety and panic disorder. Many clients here at The Panic Room have claimed that their anxiety troubles usually started after a stressful or traumatic period on their lives, such as childbirth, divorce, bereavement, health scares, etc.
Help with Derealisation
Here at The Panic Room many of our clients have experienced short to long-term episodes of derealisation. It almost always exists as part of an on-going anxiety condition such as panic disorder or generalised anxiety. If you feel you need specialised intervention for your anxiety troubles then feel free to get in touch or to book an appointment via our Contact Us page. Furthermore, you can browse the website for more information.
Extracts in this article taken from Anxiety Panicking About Panic by Joshua Fletcher