Depersonalization and derealization can be scary, and these symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder can truly make you feel like you are going crazy at times. But I want you to know that you aren’t going crazy! These symptoms can stem from heightened levels of stress, fears, and trauma. Knowing why you are experiencing something helps you to work through it, and it helps you to determine which tools will help you along the way!
When I was at the height of my journey with anxiety and panic disorder, I experienced both of these symptoms. I really had no idea what it was that I was experiencing at the time. So I want to dive into my personal experience with depersonalization and derealization to help you to better understand both of these symptoms, help you to gain some clarity, and give you some tips for working through them!
Depersonalization causes you to feel as though you are observing yourself from outside of your body. It can also cause you to feel detached from your emotions. When I experienced depersonalization, I was often worried that I didn’t have control of what I might say or do. I would worry that I might do or say something without even realizing it, and embarrass myself or do something that would get me into trouble or just make me look crazy.
Derealization is the feeling of being disconnected from reality, like you’re living in a dream. Things can even appear to be distorted. When I experienced derealization, I would often feel as though I wasn’t where I was or doing what I was doing (even though I really did know where I was and what I was doing). I worried that I was lost in some alternate world and had completely gone crazy.
Depersonalization and derealization often hit me when I was in public places like work, school, stores, and in social situations, and it would just make me feel so off! I remember sitting at work and school and convincing myself that I would do or say something crazy and not remember it, like stand up on my desk and start rambling off craziness. Or sometimes when I was in a busy place, I'd all of a sudden feel as though I had completely left my body and mind and all I could make out was unclear sounds and blurry images. And because I had no idea what I was experiencing at the time, or what would help me, I sort of just freaked out and convinced myself that I wasn’t in control (which only heightened the awful feelings).
I would often leave wherever I was and rush to a bathroom or a quiet space in an attempt to pull myself together. This often looked like pinching myself and tapping on different parts of my body or nearby surfaces in an effort to assure myself that I was not somewhere outside of my body. Although these tricks gave me some very short-term relief sometimes, I knew that there had to be better ways of working through these symptoms!
Here are a few tips to help you push past depersonalization and derealization:
1. Recognize why depersonalization and derealization is showing up! This one helped me so much, understanding why I was experiencing it! Depersonalization and derealization shows up because your mind and body are experiencing a lot of of stress and overwhelm, and your mind is trying to cope with it all. It's really a symptom of your brain trying to protect you. And although it can feel scary when it's happening, it's not dangerous. And it's also important to know that you aren't going crazy, or losing your mind. You brain is just trying to cope with lots of stress. Speaking of stress...
2. Look for ways to reduce stress. This is a huge one because stress is a major contributor of many anxiety symptoms, including depersonalization and derealization!
Here are some ways you can start reducing stress today:
- Set time aside each day for self-care, and be intentional about practicing it.
- Start saying 'no' more often!
- Limit how much information you're taking in.
- Set boundaries with yourself and others and stick to them.
- Move your body every day for at least 30 minutes.
- Make sure to do the things you enjoy doing!
3. Acknowledge how you’re feeling and accept it. This one is so important! Trying to hide how you’re feeling, trying to suppress, or running from it will heighten the symptoms. I know how badly it feels like you aren’t in control when experiencing these symptoms, but like with panic attacks, you are in control! You have always successfully worked through these moments (even though it doesn’t feel like success)! Tell yourself, “I know what this is. I feel weird, but I'm safe. This feeling is temporary and it will pass.”
4. Make sleep a priority. A lack of sleep can definitely heighten these symptoms. Getting anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep each night is best. I know this tip might seem insignificant and silly, but it's often the little, basic things we're overlooking that help us the most in our recovery journeys.
5. Continue to do the things that you want to do, without trying to make DP/DR not show up! When you've experienced something like depersonalization or derealization in certain places or situations, it can really make you want to not put yourself in these places and situations ever again. But avoiding experiencing DP/DR will only shrink your world, and it'll cause the fear to grow! So do your best not to resist or avoid.
I know that these tips will help you! And if you’re looking for that magic thing that will make you never experience depersonalization and derealization again, it’s in YOU!
You don’t have to learn to manage anxiety, panic, and the symptoms. You are capable of overcoming it all, including depersonalization and derealization! And if you're looking for some extra support in overcoming panic attacks and the symptoms of anxiety, my 90-minute masterclass is perfect for you. In this class, I'll provide you will the insights and tools you need to start approaching the symptoms and sensations of anxiety in a healthy way. And if you're unsure if the masterclass is right for you, check out the testimonials to see how the class has helped so many people start to heal from anxiety. Until next time, friend, keep taking healthy action!