Is Depersonalization Without Anxiety Possible?
Everything we know about Depersonalization / Derealization, both scientifically and anecdotally, tells us that it’s an anxiety-based condition. Feelings of DPDR are a perfectly normal part of anxiety.
But if DPDR is an anxiety-based condition, why do some people report feeling it when they’re completely calm? Is there a type of Depersonalization / Derealization that can exist without anxiety?
The answer is NO!
AND HERE'S WHY:
Baseline Levels of Anxiety
So let’s take the average baseline levels of anxiety for someone without DPDR or any anxiety-based condition.
What would they be? 1/10?
Maybe 2/10 if they’re late for work?
Maybe 3/10 if they’re late for work and can't find their car keys!
Ok, so for most people, let's say their baseline anxiety levels on any given day are an average of 2/10.
Now, what happens when you develop an anxiety-based condition like DPDR? Your baseline levels of anxiety go up...
And the first few weeks and months with Depersonalization / Derealization are just the worst. Not just because of the severity of the symptoms, but desperately trying to figure out what on earth is wrong with you, what these bizarre feelings and thoughts are!
So let’s say at this stage with DPDR, that your Baseline Levels of Anxiety (let’s call them BLA) are at 8/10 throughout the day.
And you’re possibly having numerous panic attacks each day where your anxiety levels are full on 10/10, literally as high as they can go.
Your body and brain feel stuck in those horrible thought loops and panic attacks for days, weeks, even months on end. You think that your memory is broken, your vision is affected, you're going crazy etc etc.
And what happens when this continues over weeks and months? Your brain gets used to having a higher Baseline Level of Anxiety.
It habituates to it. It becomes the ‘new normal’!
All the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety: racing thoughts, tense muscles, headaches, insomnia etc etc -- they become part of your everyday life!
Now, that doesn’t mean it gets easier -- but your brain starts to believe that having BLA of 7/10 or 8/10 is a normal, day-to-day feeling.
Starting To Recover
Now, at some point in the future, everyone gets to a point where they start to feel a little bit better. Where their levels of anxiety start to decrease.
This might be because you're focused on school or work, or maybe you're sick of researching the condition so you've stopped, etc etc.
So instead of being at a BLA of 8/10 or 9 /10, you start to find yourself at a 5/10 or 6/10.
Slowly, you start to get out of the house again. You start to socialize!
You find that you’re able to go out and do things without the fear of crippling DPDR and panic attacks. Which is great, you’re making progress!
But what commonly happens at this stage is this:
You assume that your levels of anxiety are completely back to normal.
(Which they're not!)
Still Feeling Depersonalization
But -- you still feel some DPDR. And what conclusion do you jump to? That’s right:
‘Uh-oh -- I MUST have some type of Depersonalization / Derealization that exists without anxiety’.
But again, here’s the thing: Your levels of anxiety are NOT back to normal. At least, not yet!
In comparison to having 9/10 or 10/10 BLA, full-on panic attacks and being completely housebound, confused and terrified -- Yes of course, 5/10 is doing much, much better than you were.
But in comparison to somebody who’s completely calm, whose daily stress levels go no higher than wondering what they’ll have for dinner after work? Whose anxiety levels are probably barely above 2/10?
In comparison to them, your levels of anxiety are still WAY higher!
So if your BLA is 5/10, you’re still very likely to feel some Depersonalization / Derealization, and to jump to scary conclusions about it, like ‘I must have some incurable version of DPDR!’
This tendency to jump to the worst possible conclusions is known as 'Catastrophizing' and it's super common with DPDR and all anxiety-based conditions.
Those types of catastrophic thoughts about DPDR are not separate from the condition: They ARE the condition!
Let me put it this way: People with normal levels of anxiety by definition don’t feel Depersonalization -- Why?
Because they’re not constantly checking in on themselves to see if they feel Depersonalized, which is how the condition persists!
DPDR Is Driven By Anxiety
Saying that you have Depersonalization but no anxiety is like saying you’ve recovered from the flu but you’re still coughing and sneezing. You simply cannot have one without the other!
If you’re checking in on yourself to see if you’re feeling DPDR, that habit is being driven by anxiety.
Once again: People with normal levels of anxiety are NOT constantly checking themselves to see if they feel anxiety and DP!
Now here’s the good news: It’s ok that you’re having that worry.
Literally everyone who has ever recovered from DPDR has had a period in their recovery where they start to worry, “What if my DP isn’t caused by anxiety?” or “What if I have a different version of DPDR to everyone else?”.
It’s perfectly OK to have worries like that on the road to recovery. DPDR is an anxiety-based condition. And when your thoughts are anxious, they will interpret things anxiously -- even when you're making progress!
But don't worry -- as you recover the anxiety will fade away, along with all its symptoms - including Depersonalization.
Depersonalization is a symptom of anxiety. Barring very rare certain circumstances like massive head trauma, Depersonalization without anxiety does not exist.
If you felt totally calm you wouldn’t be checking in on feelings of DPDR. You wouldn’t be thinking about them and you wouldn’t be talking about them.
You wouldn’t even be thinking ‘I feel calm’ -- because you’d be off doing something much more fun and productive like work, school, music, study, gaming, reading etc etc!
If you’re constantly checking in on feelings of anxiety and DPDR, that is anxiety and DPDR. The questions are the condition!
And one of the most vital parts of your recovery is training your brain to recognize that and understand that.
And here’s even more good news:
If your anxiety and DPDR levels can go from 10/10 to 5/10, guess what?
That’s proof that you can reduce the feelings.
And just as they can go from 10/10 to 5/10, they can go from 5/10 to 1/10.
And yes, you CAN recover completely!