Depersonalization Definition / What is Depersonalization?
Find out more about what Depersonalization actually is.
What is Depersonalization?
Depersonalization is extremely common!
In fact, it is the third most commonly experienced psychiatric symptom. So always remember, you are not alone! Somebody else has almost certainly already had any – and every nasty, nonsensical thought that DP pushes into your mind!
Amazingly, almost everyone experiences some level of depersonalization at some point in their lives. Depersonalization can be brought on for many different reasons, most often because of some sort of traumatic experience: a car crash, the death of a loved one, a bad drug experience, even a panic attack.
Now, DP usually lasts for the duration of the trauma, and for a brief time afterwards.
But for some people , like you and me, Depersonalization can stick around for much longer than that.
Why does depersonalization happen to some people and not others?
It turns into a cycle of more DP and more fear...
...generating the thought habit that becomes the actual condition.
The common element in depersonalization
This seems to be quite common for people who suffer from panic attacks, since there is no ‘visible’ danger around.
The person experiences DP as normal (as a reaction alongside the panic attack) – as they should – but since there is no obvious threat in the environment, they think that these feelings of ‘unreality’ shouldn’t be there.
After all, there is no visible danger to escape! Understandably, the person might get very afraid of these feelings, and even think they’re going mad – whereas nothing of sort is actually happening.
So there are a variety of causes, but what is common to each case is that the person at some point focuses on the DP, and tries to understand why they are having these feelings.
When the truth is that having that very thought is what prolongs the DP!
This makes the DP worse, just as focusing on any thought gets it stuck in your head (even a catchy song!)
When is this feeling of unreality going to end?
It doesn’t get a chance to go away, simply because the person doesn't allow it to do so.
There is no longer a fire, car crash, bad drug trip (or in the case of a panic attack, there was nothing in the first place) to which you can attribute the feelings of unreality, so you wonder, ‘when is this going to end’?
Depersonalization can quickly generate from this - a negative thought-habit
The amygdala, the part of the brain that registers fear, is told that the individual is in great danger.
But you look around you and see no threat – no bears, spiders etc! And yet you are still fearful and anxious. You might say that the fear has nowhere to go, nothing to focus on; there is nothing specific to be worried about.
So the fear is projected onto anything and everything.
Suddenly, your kitchen or bedroom can seem terribly frightening.
You know deep down that there is nothing to be afraid of here – But the fear itself won’t accept that.
This is a deeply confusing and scary feeling, and for me at least, it was like nothing I had ever felt before. People often come to the conclusion that they must be going crazy. Why else would this crippling fear of nothing at all come upon them?
Of course, they're not going crazy!
The body is simply reacting properly to what it perceives as danger. This also makes the fear self-perpetuating; there is no threat, so you assume that something is wrong with your mind. This in turn generates more fear – still with no threat around.
This can quickly spiral out of control into a full-blown panic attack - And the further establishment of DP thought-habits.
More and more fear builds
That is one aspect of DP that can be particularly frustrating: the fear and anxiety has nowhere to go and nothing to focus on.
The result is that more and more fear builds until it even gets projected onto even the philosophical thoughts that inspire wonder rather than alarm in most people – questions like, “Why am I here?”, “Who am I?” etc.
Thoughts become unreasonably frightening
The fear can’t find anything to focus on in the environment, so it eventually focuses back on the individual – and suddenly makes thoughts that others usually enjoy or take for granted seem unreasonably frightening.
This can turn into a thought-habit that may last for hours, days, months.... with no relief at all.
All of this contributes to the DP sufferer getting caught in a cycle of self-observation and analysis. Every little twitch, itch and movement becomes something to fear.
The sufferer becomes overly aware of their body and mind…
so intensely analytical of each sensation and movement that the inattentive ease of normal functioning is diminished.
These analytical thoughts can become very intense, even so much so that they can actually
feel like a ‘barrier’ between the mind and body, to the point where the body, or parts of it,
don’t even feel like they belong to the person anymore.
Now I know, as I’m sure you do too, that living with DP on a day-to-day basis can be very difficult.
It wears you out, both intellectually and physically.
And of course, being in a weak physical and mental state diminishes your defences all the more, further building up the negative thought-habits.
All of this contributes to a bad pattern of thinking that can very quickly become part of your everyday routine.
But I have compiled in my book an extensive list of techniques to train yourself out of the negative thought-habits that DP has established.
These techniques are based all of my own personal experiences
and also a great amount of research on many books, websites and other peoples' personal stories.
It is the guide to recovering from DP that I wish I'd had when I first developed it,