If you have Depersonalization, you've almost certainly been jumping to some scary conclusions about what the condition is. I know I did! So to clear things up, let's look at a few other conditions like Schizophrenia, Cancer and Amnesia - all conditions that Depersonalization is NOT.
Can Depersonalization turn into Schizophrenia?
No, it can't. They are completely different conditions. Depersonalization is an anxiety spectrum condition, while Schizophrenia is an organic brain disorder. One cannot lead to the other.
One of the most common symptoms of Depersonalization is the constant, intense anxious thinking. It can really wear you down. These thoughts can often be weird, existential and frightening. It can lead people to believe that they're on the verge of hearing voices, or that the thoughts themselves are 'voices'. They worry that they're having a psychotic break or even developing full-blown schizophrenia.
This is 100% incorrect.
Depersonalization and Schizophrenia are fundamentally different. With Depersonalization, by definition, reality testing remains intact. That means that through all of the weird anxious thoughts, your basic perception of reality (distinguishing the internal world of thoughts and feelings from the external world) does not change. With Schizophrenia, reality testing is broken. There may be hallucinations, paranoid delusions, incoherence. These symptoms are completely different from Depersonalization Disorder.
2. Memory Problems
I hear this so, so often from people who are suffering from Depersonalization:
"It's affecting my memory... I'll forget what I was supposed to be doing, I'll forget mid-conversation what someone was talking about. It's really frightening..."
There's a very, very simple explanation for this:
When you have Depersonalization, or any anxiety-based condition, you are going to have persistent anxious thoughts. There's nothing wrong with this. They can't hurt you and they are temporary. But they are annoying. It sucks to have to put up with them! And of COURSE that's going to affect your concentration. Trying to concentrate on something when you have anxious thoughts is like trying to have a conversation in a bar with loud music. But people automatically jump to the conclusion that this is a memory problem.
It isn't a memory problem. There's nothing wrong with your memory. It's just tough to concentrate on what's at hand. It's nothing dangerous or permanent and it will pass with time!
3. A Brain Tumor
Ok -- this is a completely crazy conclusion to jump to, and yet I've heard it so often from DP sufferers:
"What if this is brain cancer? What if these feelings are the result of a brain tumor?"
Back when I had Depersonalization, it's one of the horrible thoughts that I had aswell. There had to be some explanation for the sudden and total change in my thoughts and how I was experiencing reality. It HAD to be something huge and drastic, like a brain tumor. But of course, it wasn't.
Let's look at this logically: Brain tumors affects things like vision, balance and hearing. They cause headaches, weakness, numbness, nausea, vomiting or seizures. They rarely cause anxiety and the likelihood of a brain tumor causing something as specific as Depersonalization is almost non-existent. What's more likely, that you have an anxiety condition caused by a brain tumor -- or caused by anxiety?
Of course, it's the latter. The reality is that anxious people jump to the conclusion of brain cancer primarily because it's the most dramatic, horrifying conclusion to come to. But when your thinking is driven by anxiety, of course that's the type of thinking you're going to experience. Learn to recognize it for what it is and you will immediately start to defuse it!
4. A Permanent Drug Trip
Depersonalization is very frequently brought on by bad drug experiences (weed, LSD etc). Because of the intense, frightening nature of the DP thoughts, people can often assume that what they're experiencing is the drug, still somehow in their system. This, they conclude, must be because they have mistakenly taken a massive dose of the drug, or the drug has somehow become 'trapped' in their body. Either that, or they have flipped some switch in their brain and now they're on a 'permanent trip' or something similar.
Of course, this is not the case.
No matter what drug you have taken, it's impossible for it to stay in your body indefinitely. Once it's gone out of your body, it's gone. The mental effects of the drug will pass, and whatever feelings of unreality and being 'high' you are feeling after that is caused by Depersonalization and anxiety. It has nothing to do with the drug itself. These feelings can be frightening but they are temporary and can be dealt with and stopped completely.
5. Any Permanent Change in the Brain
The most frightening conclusion DP sufferers come to is that the change is permanent and that they're stuck with these feelings and thoughts forever. It's not.
What you need to remember is that Depersonalization is simply a defence mechanism of the brain. People experience it all the time, though usually very briefly. It kicks in as a response to trauma (panic attack, bad drug experience etc) and the only reason it's persisting is because of focusing on it instead of allowing it to dissipate. At the end of the day, it's nothing more than a habit of thought and it can be overwritten.
You're safe. Depersonalization won't turn into schizophrenia, a brain tumor or anything like that. It's a symptom of anxiety and like all conditions on the anxiety spectrum, Depersonalization is completely reversible.