Have you ever felt like you were in a dream you can’t wake up from? You recognize your thoughts, feelings, body, people, events, and your surroundings, but they don’t quite feel real to you. These are the examples of what it feels like to have Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder. Despite the popular belief, this disorder is pretty common and can occur to about 50% of our population. It is often seen in individuals who have experienced severe trauma or as a secondary symptom to other psychiatric disorder such as Schizophrenia. Regardless of what is causing this disorder, it is important to understand what Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder is and how we can cope with its symptoms.
What is Depersonalization?
Depersonalization refers to Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder. A person with this disorder feels a disconnection from his own thoughts, feelings, and body as if he is observing them from out of the body, and he also feels that his surroundings are not real.
This is very interesting because it sounds quite like Psychosis, but it is not. The key point of differentiating the two is that a person with this disorder does not lose touch with the reality, which is a big hallmark symptom of Psychosis.
I’ve actually experienced both Depersonalization-Derealization and Psychosis. In my experience, it felt as though I was dreaming no matter what I was doing, and the world didn’t seem real at all. But I never lost touch with reality, so it was not really a frightening experience as it was with Psychosis. Psychosis, on the other hand, was extremely scary, and I thank God that I somehow got through those dark times.
Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder belongs to a group of mental disorders called dissociative disorders, which involve disruptions with one’s consciousness, awareness, identity, perception, and memory. These disorders are often associated with intense stress and experience of trauma, but the exact cause is not widely understood today. Although intense stress and trauma are the most common causes, there are other things to be considered such as environment, genetics, biological susceptibility, physical illness, and other underlying issues.
Unfortunately, there is no medication to treat this disorder. However, medications are often helpful in treating its associated symptoms, such as depression and anxiety. Depersonalization and Derealization often go away on its own, and they usually last for a short while although they can persist in some chronic cases.
Treatment options for Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder include but are not limited to :
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectic-behavior therapy (DBT)
- Art Therapy
There is no single prevention for Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder that is known to be effective at this time. However, catching it early on may lead to a better outcome.
When I experienced Depersonalization-Derealization was in 2011. My memory is still foggy about that year, but I do know that every day felt like I was dreaming. Mine lasted for about a few months, and I honestly can’t remember what caused me to finally stop feeling that way. Years later today, I know that practicing mindfulness really helps me stay grounded and it serves as great prevention for not only Depersonalization-Derealization but other things like psychosis, depression, anxiety, etc. I am a firm believer that prevention is much easier and powerful to do than dealing with the symptoms/issues unprepared right when they occur. Mindfulness not only helps train our brain to stay present and be with ourselves, but it also gives us the capacity to feel joy and hopes away from flashbacks and past traumas. Even if you don’t have any mental illness, everybody can benefit from learning mindfulness because it teaches us ways to embrace our pain and suffering on all levels.
Although experiencing Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder was not as frightening as Psychosis, it was still a rough time of my life when I look back. Feeling like you are living in a dream that you can’t quite wake up from can cause debilitating depression and anxiety, and leaving it untreated could also lead to some serious consequences down the road. Although prevention is not easy, it is very helpful to educate ourselves on how to identify the early warning signs and how to seek professional help. If you have experienced Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder before and would like to share your story, please use the comment section below. Please also share what helped you cope with your symptoms so that others may take notes and learn different ways other than the ones mentioned in this article.
**For more information on Psychosis, click here.