Derealization is when you, or your surroundings feel distant and somehow distorted.
Everyone feels “out of it” from time to time. You may feel disconnected or “in a fog.” There are countless minor reasons for these very temporary episodes. Almost always, there is no need to pay them much attention. However, for at least two percent of the population, these feelings are both intense and frequent.
In these instances, the person may find it difficult to handle daily functioning. If so, it’s likely that derealization is happening. More specifically, Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder might be happening. This disorder can be effectively treated with psychotherapy. For starters, though, let’s dive deeper into the details.
Derealization Signs and Symptoms
Depersonalization involves feeling a detachment from yourself, e.g. thoughts, feelings, and physical body. The detachment caused by derealization is from your surroundings and environment. You know it’s an altered state but you may not know how to shut it off. Someone experiencing derealization may display signs and symptoms that come and go in episodes. In these episodes, you may feel any or all of the following:
- Your awareness of your surroundings has become intensified and/or heightened.
- The objects and the people you see don’t appear real or at least not normal. They look fake or cartoonish. Distance seems distorted as does size and shape. This can go as far as causing blurriness, lack of color, or objects seeming to be two-dimensional.
- Noises may sound, to you, to be either too loud or too soft compared to their normal volume.
- Time also behaves differently in your perception. It may seem to slow down or speed up. In some cases, you have the sensation of time standing still.
- You feel as if you are viewing life from behind a veil or glass wall.
- More abstractly, derealization presents the illusion that you are watching yourself go through your life from an outside perspective. This can take the form of being dream-like or as if you’re looking into the recent past.
Everyone experiences derealization in different ways. The episodes themselves can last as short as a few minutes or as long as a few months. You know what is real and what is not but you can’t use this awareness to alter how you see it.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The first step is to ascertain that these symptoms are not being caused by another condition, disorder, or factor, e.g.
- Seizure disorders
- Substance abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety or depression
- Borderline personality disorder
There are no medications specifically used for Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. But, if other conditions are present, medications may be prescribed for these conditions. Once the cause has been determined to be derealization, as stated above, psychotherapy is strongly recommended. Therapy can help you:
- Comprehend what is happening and what derealization means for you
- Maintain control over your symptoms
- Develop coping skills that can distract you from the derealization episodes and/or reconnect you more quickly so the episodes do not persist.
- Identify and address any underlying issues. These could include past trauma, existing mental health conditions, life stress, or even physical problems.
Here’s the key: The symptoms of derealization can feel very odd. They can make you feel shameful or self-conscious. You may fear the kind of reaction you would get by talking about them. Therapy is precisely where you can open up safely about what you are experiencing.
The truth? Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder will not just fix itself. Therefore, your first task is to accept its presence and reach out for the appropriate help. If any of the signs and symptoms discussed here sound familiar to you, I invite you to reach out for trauma therapy. Please feel welcome to contact me for a safe and fully confidential consultation.