Depersonalization forums can seem like a fantastic resource. But one of the most common questions I’ve seen in all of my years of dealing with DP sufferers is this:
“I’ve been looking on Depersonalization forums and there are people who have had the condition for 10 / 20 / 30 years…. If that can happen to them, what’s stopping it happening to me?”
It sounds like a perfectly valid question. I remember when I was first suffering from Depersonalization, I spent days and weeks Googling my symptoms, frantically trying to find an explanation for why I was feeling so strange and scared all the time.
When I did come across a Depersonalization forum, at first I thought that my prayers were answered. Finally, here was an explanation! However, I remember my heart sinking when I saw posts from people who had had Depersonalization for years.
People said they had tried everything -- medications, therapy, holistic medicine etc -- and nothing had worked. This information, and the prospect of having DP for years and maybe even decades, sent me into an intense panic attack and days of depression.
DP is an Alarm System
It took me a long time to realize that there was actually nothing to be worried about. You see, in any anxiety-spectrum condition (which Depersonalization is), one of the very worst things that you can do is constantly research and talk about it. Let me explain:
Depersonalization is, at its core, a symptom of anxiety. It’s your brain’s natural self-defence alarm system that kicks in during times of trauma to allow to escape without being paralysed by fear. Sometimes, the alarm can continue on after the situation itself has passed (especially if it's been triggered by a panic attack or drugs) and can seem like a separate mental condition.
Your brain is convinced that it's still in danger and so keeps the DP going. You think scary thoughts like 'I must be going crazy' -- which makes you more anxious and makes the DP worse. This cycle continues and turns into Depersonalization Disorder (DPD). In order turn off the 'alarm' of DP you must convince your brain, correctly, that you're NOT in danger. Of being hurt, of dying, of going crazy. There is nothing to be afraid of, so your brain can turn off the anxiety, and the and 'alarm' of Depersonalization.
Depersonalization Forums Keep the Alarm Going
Can you see why logging on to Depersonalization forums every day would make that impossible?
Question: If you are suffering from a disorder that feeds on anxiety, what is the worst thing you can do?
Answer: Spend time every day on forums discussing the condition and freaking yourself out.
I'm not saying that the forums are bad or not meant to be supportive, of course they are. But they're also filled with people who say that they have tried everything but can’t recover, who write regular posts about their anxious thoughts and feelings. These are posts that would be scary for a non-anxious person to read, never mind someone actually suffering from Depersonalization!
There are people who log on to these forums every single day to report on how they are Depersonalized they are feeling, on a scale of 1 to 10. When someone like that says, “I’ve had Depersonalization for years. I've tried everything, but I can’t get better”, it's very sad to hear but it's not surprising. They might have the very best intentions in the world, but they’re not giving themselves a chance to get better.
I recovered fully from DPDR over 15 years ago. But I can guarantee you that if I had kept logging on to DPDR forums, posting and checking in regularly, constantly looking for more Depersonalization recovery tips, I would have had Depersonalization for years after that too. And I might even still have it today. But by avoiding Depersonalization forums, you give your mind what it desperately wants: An opportunity to focus away from anxious thoughts and a chance to recover.
People Who Have Recovered
And what about the people who have recovered? How come you rarely see them on forums? Because they have figured out that spending time on those forums was not good for them. They figured out that logging on was a constant reminder that you are supposed to be sick, at a time when you need to remind yourself every day that Depersonalization is just a passing condition that can be dealt with easily.
So if you’ve seen people on forums saying ‘I’ve had Depersonalization for years’, it’s nothing for you to be scared about. In fact, it actually makes sense that they've had DP for so long if they're still on Depersonalization forums. Again, I'm not saying that these websites don't have the very best intentions -- I know they do.
But during my experience with DP I figured out that even though I'd find some positive stories here and there, these forums generally only ever made me feel worse. And when I stopped looking at them, the difference it make to my recovery was huge.
So remember - if you're suffering from DP, posting and reading in Depersonalization forums won't help you to recover.