Depersonalization: Three Reasons You're NOT Going Crazy
It’s the question that everyone asks themselves when they first experience Depersonalization: Am I going crazy?
One of the most common symptoms of Depersonalization is having constant racing thoughts, intense self-analysis and weird existential fears. Things that are usually perfectly normal and everyday can seem bizarre.
When I had Depersonalization, I remember constantly thinking "I feel like I'm going crazy".
For example, I'd look at my dog and instead of feeling happy or comforted, I'd start to wonder how such an animal could exist, what was it thinking, what was its consciousness like.
And I kept making bizarre associations between words and concepts. At one point, I heard the word 'Helsinki' on the radio. I somehow thought that there was a connection between sinks and Hell, and became afraid of toilet sinks.
Now, I knew logically that there was no connection between these things. But the fear was overwhelming.
It was really horrible, and these kinds of thoughts would hit me over and over, hundreds of times a day. It took the joy out of everything. It was unbearable.
I didn't know why I was having these thoughts, where they were coming from. I was absolutely terrified that I was going crazy, that I was having psychosis or developing schizophrenia.
I really believed that eventually I'd go fully insane and have to have to spend my life in a mental hospital.
The fear of going insane is incredibly common with DPDR sufferers.
So before we go any further, here's the good news:
You’re absolutely NOT going 'crazy', 'insane', 'psychotic' or anything remotely like that.
Not even CLOSE. In fact what you experience with Depersonalization is the OPPOSITE of 'going crazy'.
And I’m about to tell you why in 3 simple steps.
1. DEPERSONALIZATION IS A DEFENSIVE SYSTEM
The feelings of Depersonalization can be really scary. I mean, really scary! When you think horrible thoughts like reality isn't real, you're living in a dream, you're freaking out all the time, etc.
It almost feels like you're under attack from your own mind, right? But what if I told that you're not under attack? In fact, what you're feeling and thinking is part of your body and brain's natural defense system.
That's right -- Depersonalization is a defense system that kicks in at times of trauma. This may have happened because of drugs, trauma, violence, a car accident etc.
But it doesn’t matter what caused it, the end result is exactly the same.
The feelings of being cut off from the world, unfamiliarity etc are your brain’s way of protecting you from what it thinks a dangerous situation. The feelings of Depersonalization + Derealization happen to people -- briefly -- all the time!
But unfortunately, for an unlucky few like you and me (and 1 in 50 others!) it can last a bit longer. But DPDR is 100% recognized in the medical community as a natural reaction to trauma.
I understand that having a thought like "Why do I feel like I'm not here mentally?" can feel frightening -- but that feeling of disconnection is happening because of your brain's defensive mechanism.
And the simple fact is that a defensive mechanism is there to keep you SAFE.
It's never going to cause psychosis or insanity.
2. DPDR IS OFTEN INTERPRETED AS SOMETHING IT'S NOT
Depersonalization is designed to help you through trauma. It’s the reason you hear stories of people escaping car crashes, burning buildings and natural disasters without being able to remember how they did it.
Your brain turns off the paralyzing fear response and allows you to calmly get out of the situation!
Typically the Depersonalization then stops naturally.
BUT -- If you continue to experience Depersonalization into your normal daily life, as happens to many people like you and me, then it becomes a problem.
And if you’re sitting in your kitchen and experiencing ‘unexplained’ feelings of detachment and unfamiliarity, it’s not unusual to jump to the conclusion that...
...you must be going crazy, right?
That of course make the anxiety worse -- which make the brain think “there’s more danger here!” and turn UP the Depersonalization + Derealization even more to protect itself. The anxiety heightens visual and aural sensitivity while your thoughts are racing to explain the DPDR feelings.
So you're sitting in your kitchen or your bedroom, and suddenly you're conscious of every small thing in the room. You feel like you're not here mentally. You're super-aware of your body.
And your mind feels out of control, having all sorts of weird existential thoughts.
What's the first thing you think? That's right:
"I MUST be going crazy."
I thought the same thing. Believe me, EVERYONE who gets DPDR thinks the same thing.
But you're not going crazy. You're 100% safe!
3. DPDR IS ACTUALLY THE OPPOSITE OF INSANITY
Ok, so here's the most important part of all of this.
Depersonalization is not dangerous. It's not psychosis. And here's the scientific reason why:
Even when you're having the most intense, frightening Depersonalization thoughts, your Reality Testing remains intact. This is vital.
In psychiatric terms, Reality Testing is "the objective evaluation of an emotion or thought against real life, as a faculty present in normal individuals but defective in psychotics."
What this basically means is that even with most frightening thoughts, you're able to distinguish between the thoughts and reality.
It's the reason why, though I was freaked out about 'Helsinki', I knew that it wasn't reality.
In fact, that's what makes the thoughts so scary: they're so strange and alien and removed from reality.
Here's a good rule of thumb: If you think you're going crazy, you're not.
Reality Testing what distinguishes people with actual psychosis from those without. Depersonalization / Derealization, on the other hand is just an anxiety-spectrum disorder -- and that's all it will ever be.
If anything, with DPDR your reality testing is too heightened because of the fight-or-flight hyper-awareness that the anxiety causes.
That's right -- what you are experiencing is nothing more than a natural and temporary habit of thought and is literally the opposite of insanity!
Sure, there's lots of weird, frightening existential thoughts. But they don't mean anything and they'll pass. Again -- if you think you're going crazy, you're not.
Understanding this, and realising that I wasn't going crazy was a huge step in my recovery from DPDR.
The most important thing to remember here is that all of it -- the anxiety, the DPDR, the fear that you're going insane -- ALL of these are nothing more than your body's natural reactions to what it perceives to be a dangerous or traumatic situation.
So there you have it: 3 simple steps that prove 100% that you're NOT going crazy!
And look, I understand -- It’s a frightening experience. I understand that more than anyone -- but just remember that you are safe and you are not going crazy, insane, psychotic or anything even remotely like that.
Because ultimately -- is Depersonalization / Derealization dangerous, either mentally or physically?
No, it's not.
It's scary, for sure -- but it's certainly not dangerous.
And if you think that DPDR might lead to something worse down the line? Don't worry -- that won't happen either.
As scary as it seems, Depersonalization / Derealization is just your natural defence mechanism.
A protective habit of thought. That's all!
It's not dangerous. It can't hurt you.
It's temporary and harmless -- and you can recover from it completely!