The Top 5 Myths About Depersonalization + Derealization Disorder (DP/DR)
There’s a LOT of confusing information out there about Depersonalization and Derealization -- and in particular, some persistent myths that you tend to hear over and over, especially on forums and discussion boards.
They might seem frightening, but there’s very simple explanations for all of them.
So let's bust the Top 5 Myths about Depersonalization and Derealization Disorder (DP/DR).
Myth #5: DP/DR is a Bizarre and Unknown disorder
One of the most frightening myths about Depersonalization and Derealization (DP/DR) is the idea that it's some sort of brand new, unknown disorder that nobody quite understands.
That you're alone with this and it's up to you to sort through potential treatments before you find one that works for you -- if you find one that works.
This is 100% a myth!
While it's true that there has been relatively little research into DPDR compared to, say, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it's not as if we don't know what it is.
Depersonalization is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the medical bible for mental conditions.
All of the evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, tells us that it's rooted in anxiety. That's why so many people develop it from panic attacks, car crashes, bad drug experiences.
Depersonalization is actually a perfectly normal reaction to trauma -- and up to 75% of people will experience it at some point in their lives.
But some people (like you and me!) become aware of the feeling, obsess over it and cause it to drag on for day, weeks and sometimes longer.
Yes it's frightening, but it's temporary.
When we understand that simple process and learn to control our reaction to it, we can reduce and stop feelings of Depersonalization and Derealization.
Myth #4: There are Different Types of Depersonalization and Derealization
People get DP/DR for many different reasons -- (drugs / stress / panic attacks) and so, people naturally believe that there must be different types of Depersonalization and Derealization.
But this just overcomplicates the condition. For example, if you've been looking through Depersonalization forums (which you shouldn't do!) you have probably, in among all the horror stories, spotted a few Depersonalization recovery stories. People who have dropped back in to the forums to say, "I got better!"
Now, I’ll bet that your reaction when reading that was something like:
"Well that’s great for them. But they must have a different type of Depersonalization to me, because I'm not getting better."
At least, that was my reaction when I first saw posts like that. I thought, just as most sufferers do at some point, that there are different types of DP, or for example that it's easier to recover from stress-induced DP than drug-induced DP.
At least, that was my reaction when I first saw posts like that. And that's usually what happens in the replies to these posts.
People think that there are different types of DP, or that it's easier to recover from stress-induced DP than drug-induced DP.
This is 100% a Myth!
DP/DR is an anxiety-based condition. It doesn’t matter what the trigger was, the condition is the same.
To be clear -- In much rarer cases, Depersonalization CAN also occur as a result of serious head trauma and brain injury. If you have recently experienced significant head trauma please don’t hesitate to speak to a medical health professional.
But in this context, in terms of DP as an anxiety-based condition? There are no different types of Depersonalization.
Certainly, there can be different triggers, but the condition is always the same and can be recovered from, 100%.
Myth #3: It's Impossible to Recover Completely
This is a total myth that only exists in the realm of online Depersonalization forums. Believe me, you'll never meet a single doctor or therapist who will tell you that recovery from Depersonalization and Derealization is 'impossible'.
Or recovery from any anxiety-spectrum condition, for that matter. So why would anyone think that or say such a thing? Well, there's a very simple answer:
The people who say "It's impossible to recover from Depersonalization" are usually people who have had the condition for years and who have simply come to that conclusion. Now, for someone who has just developed DP, that can be an intensely frightening thing to read. I remember having a panic meltdown when I first read on forums that people had this condition for years, decades even.
But let's look at what's really going on:
One of the core behaviours required for recovery from any anxiety-spectrum condition is that you consciously stop focusing on it.
It's like the old Cherokee story of the Good Wolf and the Bad Wolf. The more you feed it, the stronger it gets!
For example -- the person who writes "I've had DP/DR for years" on Depersonalization Forums -- is probably posting regularly ON Depersonalization Forums. Which is something that will always prevent them from recovering.
Even if you go on forums looking for positive info, and with the best of intentions -- you're still actively focusing on DP/DR long after it’s of any use to you.
You're feeding the Bad Wolf and your behaviour is inadvertently preventing your recovery.
And look, that’s not a criticism! I did ALL of those things for a long, long time -- All the while wondering why my constant research wasn’t helping me to recover.
Believe me, I learned that the hard way!
There's also a misconception that there are different types of DP/DR that can be more serious than others, or can last for different amounts of time. Neither are true.
The fact is that out in the real world, people recover fully from Depersonalization / Derealization and every other anxiety-based condition every single day. And that means 100% recovery.
Not having to just learn to cope with it. You can get back to your old life and you will recover completely.
Myth #2: DP/DR Can Return at Any Time
It can seem depressing to think that once you recover from Depersonalization, it can always come back out of the blue and set you back to square one.
That's absolutely not the case, and here's why.
Part of Depersonalization recovery is learning to recognize what it is and how it's connected with the anxiety / trauma that caused it in the first place. That it's your brain's defense mechanism.
That not only will it not hurt you, but it's actually there to protect you. You understand that Depersonalization is just a symptom of anxiety. That's all!
So in the same way that some people with anxiety experience heart palpitations, others experience shortness of breath, some folks (in fact, 75% of people!) will experience temporary Depersonalization and Derealization at some point in their lives.
Once you understand that, you take away all of DP/DR's power. It doesn't make sense for it to be there anymore, logically or in a fight-or-flight sense.
In the same way that when you first experienced it, it was frightening and unknown, it now becomes recognizable and not scary at all.
That stops the vicious circle of Depersonalization and anxiety and soon, both are stopped in their tracks. This allows the DP/DR to fade away naturally and completely, just as it should have done the very first time you experienced it.
So sometime in the future, long after you've recovered, if you have another moment of intense stress and trauma and you have a moment of temporary Depersonalization?
You recognize it. You know why it's there. You know what to do, and you don't focus on it or start to panic.
And the feelings of DP will pass quickly, which is exactly what they're supposed to do.
Myth #1: You'll Never Be The Same Again
Of all the myths about Depersonalization and Derealization out there, this is probably the most persistent.
Thankfully, it's also completely untrue -- It's a myth that's driven entirely by the anxiety itself.
Me, I was terrified of this prospect. Like everyone who develops chronic Depersonalization / Derealization, I was absolutely terrified of the idea that some sort of 'switch' had been flicked in my brain and that I was now stuck with this new version of myself, and that I'd just have to learn to live with it.
This has no basis in reality whatsoever. No 'switch' has been flicked and you're certainly not stuck in another type of reality, at least no more than feeling nervous before an exam or getting on a rollercoaster!
It's just anxiety causing a defensive mechanism that's being prolonged because you're focusing on it.
Of course, the symptoms can be intense and frightening at times, but there are no permanent changes in your brain.
This is not an organic disease, it's not something that develops into another condition. It's fundamentally a habit of thought, and once it's overwritten, you will be 100% back to your normal self.