Depersonalization - The Questions ARE The Condition
During my recovery from depersonalization, one of the single most important rules I discovered was this: In order to recover from DP, you absolutely MUST stop researching it. But sometimes that's not as easy as it sounds...
When the very first edition of the DP Manual was published over ten years ago, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Sufferers were thrilled to have a book that comprehensively explained what DP was and - more importantly - how to recover from it, step-by-step.
But occasionally I'd receive an email from someone who had read through the book, was seeing great progress, but had ‘one more question’ or wanted ‘some more tips’ on DP recovery.
Invariably, the questions / tips requested were already covered in the book (or the website's free articles section). I wondered about these emails, unsure why someone would look for info that had already been covered.
Of course I’d email back, reiterating the points. But the emails would keep coming -- often asking the same questions again and again.
For a while I was confused as to why the information didn’t seem to be getting through. Was I explaining it badly? Phrasing it incorrectly? Why were some people looking for the same instructions over and over again?
And then I realized something:
During my time with Depersonalization --
I had done the exact same thing.
You see, the entire condition of Depersonalization is based on asking questions.
When the feeling first occurs, which it does to 50% of people at some point in their life at times of trauma it’s designed to occur very quickly, get you through the traumatic event and then dissipate naturally. It's your brain's natural system of defence!
It’s only when it’s focused on and examined as a feeling separate from the trauma (as often occurs with panic attacks or bad drug experiences) that the questions begin:
“What is this feeling? / What’s happening to me? / Am I going insane?”
The condition can then become self-perpetuating, continuing long past its normally brief timeframe, turning into a habit of thought and eventually becoming Depersonalization Disorder.
As anyone with DPD knows all too well, the questioning then becomes CONSTANT.
From the internal existential thoughts to the external research, to trying different supplements and medications, looking through forums, etc etc. You can’t get enough information about it. It’s like an itch you can’t scratch!
And though it can be frustrating and upsetting, it's vitally important to remember that these thoughts and questions are a symptom of the condition.
It's what Depersonalization expert Elena Bezzubova calls 'compulsive self-observation' -- the need to constantly monitor yourself and how 'real' you feel at any given time.
Why does this happen?
Well, it’s in our nature to want to ‘logic’ our way out of problems.
And with most medical conditions, you can actually do that:
You get a flu, you rest and take plenty of liquids.
You get diabetes, you take insulin.
You get a headache, you take paracetamol.
But with Depersonalization or any other anxiety spectrum disorder, that rationale is turned on its head. Why? Because there is no way to logic yourself out of a condition that isn’t organic, that isn’t based on logic itself.
In fact, with thought-based anxiety conditions like DP, it’s the very seeking of logic, the constant questioning and poking at it that causes it to persist.
So, and probably at odds with every other medical experience you’ve had in your life, researching and questioning the condition only makes things worse.
And that can be a very difficult thing to grasp -- believe me, I know!
When you have spent your whole life being prescribed simple, one-off solutions for medical conditions, it can be hard to accept that you have a condition that worsens the more actively you try to pursue a cure for it.
I remember that when I was first recovering, I would think of DP-related questions. Like, are there any tips for people with DP going to the gym?
What exact doses of supplements should I be taking? etc etc.
And even though I had the very best of intentions, before I knew it, I was back online researching the condition, asking questions, making things worse.
It was only when I learned to break that chain of action that I began to see really positive results.
So when I thought of some DP-related question, instead of looking it up and asking about it I would go and read a book, meet friends, listen to music, play a video game.
Anything to break the association of thinking about DP and then acting on it!
So remember -- even as you start to see progress in your recovery, there may still be a small temptation to keep researching, to ask ‘one more question’ or look for ‘one more tip’ about the condition.
And this is totally understandable, I experienced it myself and it set me back time and time again before I fully recovered.
But here’s the thing to understand: The questions ARE the condition. And indulging them by looking them up / researching them etc will only prolong the condition.
Once you understand that, you’ll have broken the behavioral habit of DP and taken one your MOST important steps towards recovery!