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Depersonalization vs. Derealization: Examples, Treatments and More

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As a neuroscientist who has learnt how to completely cure scary dissociative anxiety, I am passionate about aligning others with freedom.

Everything you need to know about DPDR

Everything you need to know about DPDR

An Introduction to DRPR

So, you are suffering from dissociative anxiety. I am writing this article to address a major query that is likely rattling around in your minds right now like a pesky fly. We refer to chronic, persistent dissociation that reduces our quality of life as DPDR (Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder).

Is DPDR Oversimplified?

Some people believe this acronym neglects to acknowledge the fact that patients experience either derealization or derealization, rather than both. Why do we group these symptoms together? Could it be better to consider and treat them separately?

The short answer is a massive no. We are going to unravel this complex matter, covering why the precise nature of your dissociative symptoms don't really matter because treating all expression of derealization and depersonalization (or a mix of the two) requires you to employ the same techniques to skilfully rewire your subconscious mind.

Here, I will describe the differences between derealization and depersonalization, discuss common treatments, and tell you why these two symptoms should not be considered 'separate entities.'

There Is Nothing Wrong With You

Before we plunge into today's topic, I want to remind you that you are okay and safe. This I can promise you with every last ounce of my heart.

DPDR is an illusion; your brain is perfect and always has been. You are only temporarily stuck in this state because you are a). trapped in fear and not understanding what it is, and b). prone to rumination. This has you trapped in the falsehood that you are very ill and keeps you practising textbook OCD behaviours.

It's about time that you change this and grant yourself the gorgeous emotional freedom that you deserve. There is nothing I want more than to liberate everyone from DPDR, which is truly nothing more than an ill-directed obsession. As someone who has personal experience with DPDR, I have done extensive research and have even written a book about the treatment methods that worked for me. More information about this book can be found at the end of this article.

Those suffering with derealization often feel like their reality is altered, almost as if they're in a video game.

Those suffering with derealization often feel like their reality is altered, almost as if they're in a video game.

What Does Derealization Look Like?

While you will all most likely be aware of the broad definitions of both terms, we are going to skim over them to ensure that the differences are clear in your head. Derealization involves the world seeming surreal, dreamy, and fake, in a way that probably would be pleasant if it were a desired experience (e.g., after smoking marijuana) but is unpleasant and terrifying due to the fact that it enwraps us when we want to feel sober. Those who experience derealization often feel disconnected from their own environment, as if they're serving as witnesses to their surroundings instead of actually participating in them.

Visual Effects

This phenomenon sometimes involves peculiar visual effects. When dealing with a bout of derealization, buildings, other people, nature, and just about anything that you come across can be tinted with a horrifyingly cartoonlike sheen. As with any other ineffable, scary psychological phenomenon, this really has to be experienced to be understood, and there are interpersonal variations in the severity of these visual disturbances.

Misinterpretations of Size, Shape and Orientation

Some people experience a temporary ‘Alice in Wonderland' effect rather strongly, feeling that they are suddenly larger or smaller than they used to be and that the objects that they are interacting with are somehow different from how they appeared before. Others view the world almost normally but feel extremely unstable and unsafe as they navigate it, sure that they are ‘tipping’ and about to fall over at any given moment. While this symptom can be rather unnerving (and embarrassing, if your circular thinking leads to you being convinced that you are also walking oddly), it is another mere illusion; your brain and muscles are still orchestrating perfect rhythmic movement, supporting you as you glide through life, and there is nothing strange about your posture.

Depersonalization presents itself as a feeling of disconnection, as if you are no longer attached to your own body.

Depersonalization presents itself as a feeling of disconnection, as if you are no longer attached to your own body.

What Does Depersonalization Look Like?

We have looked at derealization, but some people prone to dissociative states do not experience a marked distortion of the world around them. In contrast to being bombarded by thoughts about whether they are "living in a simulation," those struggling with depersonalization mainly struggle to identify with their body parts and the concept of being human.

An Overall Disconnect

They may feel numb, or as though they are incapable of controlling their own body or mind. If asked what they are most scared of, they would reply with doubts that they, as an entity, actually exist. This subset of sufferers may experience some derealization, too, particularly when dealing with sensory overload in public, but the softening of the world around them is not the principal driver of their terror.

[DPDR] patients feel as external observers of their mental processes, their own body, or a part of it, as if they were oblivious, dead, or empty, as if automated or living in a dream or a movie.

— Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy

My Own Experience With Derealization

An important note about the visual disturbances that come along with derealization: we are not talking about hallucinations nor anything that should be mistaken for an attack of psychosis, for the integrity of the world is maintained. Edges, textures, and relative sizes of things in your surroundings will be unperturbed, but you will feel that you are viewing reality through a psychedelic, lightly-coloured lens. Personally, I used to see everything as if it were bathed in sepia/golden light, which could have been pretty but, since it was unwanted, plunged me into the delusion that I was dreaming. I wanted out.

“Reality, as I used to know it, can no longer exist,” I used to tell myself, certain that I was now an omnipotent spiritual being rather than a human, feeling like I was living in a 2D computer game while somehow ‘aware’ of my own existence. Had I shared these thoughts with someone other than the two psychotherapists I visited at the time (who had barely heard of dissociative anxiety and were not equipped to truly help me), I would have likely been considered entirely insane and on the verge of involuntarily entering a catatonic state of psychosis.

Finding My Cure

It turns out I never was insane, nor was I truly mentally unwell. I was just temporarily gobbling up the limiting, intrusive thoughts that my brain was throwing my way, and excessively indulging in asking (and researching) dead-end questions. After all, questioning reality and your own condition incessantly is one basis of DPDR.

I now see where I went wrong as clearly as I can visualize cracking the eggs I enjoyed for breakfast this morning, and I am going to teach YOU how to stop thinking about, pondering, and investigating DPDR too. I hope that the result of this method is the flow of noise in your brain quietening, your focus shifting, and you completely overcoming a). dissociation, and b). your preoccupation and identification with dissociation.

Therapy is the most common method of treatment for DPDR.

Therapy is the most common method of treatment for DPDR.

Therapy: The Most Common DPDR Treatment

According to MayoClinic.com, talk therapy (also known as psychotherapy) is the most common treatment for DPDR. Those with DPDR who engage in psychotherapy are taught methods of identifying, understanding, and coping with the symptoms of their disorder. Though there is no specific medication used to treat this condition, some professionals argue that taking medication for preexisting mental conditions–such as depression or anxiety–can also help relieve symptoms of DPDR.

There is no cure for depersonalization derealization disorder, but treatment can reduce distressing symptoms and even lead to full remission of the disorder.

— The Recovery Village

Remember, Improvement Is Possible

I am aware that those of you who are currently deep in delusionary thinking will consider yourself very mentally unwell. Since you have not received the correct information (and, to top it off, have nearly definitely been sucked into reading pessimistic forum posts from people who ignorantly claim that recovery is impossible), these feelings are completely understandable and reasonable. In your current situation, it is almost logical that you should feel this way, but this belief system regarding your prognosis is utterly unfounded, illogical, and untrue.

How Not to Handle DPDR

Try to avoid labelling and over-analysing. It is human nature to want to put ourselves in categories when we feel that something is ‘wrong.’ There are marked survival benefits to wanting to ‘fit in,’ and this tendency is seen in all mammals to differing degrees.

As has been mentioned above, your path to recovery and freedom will be identical regardless of what strain of dissociation you feel that you best identify with. Overcoming your symptoms will require the same rewiring of your subconscious mind, the same commitment to dismissing intrusive thoughts and the same interest in your own self-expansion and abundance.

Stop Dissecting Your Condition

Separating your state of dissociation into moments of ‘derealization’ and moments of ‘depersonalization’ is akin to knowing that you are dehydrated but, rather than drinking water, pondering over the fact that you have a). a headache and b). fatigue. The reality is that both are possible, common causes of dehydration, so the correct mode of action is to stop indulging your hypochondria and just rehydrate yourself so that they can both be alleviated simultaneously. The same goes for DPDR.

Try Not to Fixate

Fixating on the fact that you perhaps suffer from derealization more than depersonalization (or the other way around), is not only not needed but is actively detrimental. Falsely believing that you are ill and have reached a state that is ‘too far gone to be treated’ is a key pillar of this condition, so the last thing we want to do is exacerbate this with superfluous labels.

Should Each Symptom Be Treated Separately?

Let’s return to the topic I mentioned above: should we break DPDR down into its different constituents? No, further than defining what derealization and depersonalization are (with the sole purpose of realizing that they are different phenomena triggered by anxiety paired with an obsessive nature and soothing our fears), it is counterproductive and unnecessary to fixate too much on what constitutes the disorder. Furthermore, the root cause of both of these different states is identical, and both will cease to exist once you cut to the chase and target it.

Resource Recommendations

I wrote Exit The Dream, after deducing the most powerful way to cure DPDR, which I believe will be instrumental in your recovery.

It imparts every single psychological trick that you'll need to snap yourself out of this state and feel completely real again, in addition to all the info that a scared, existential DPDR sufferer could ever wish for. This will allow you to not only rewire your brain and see reality normally again but also to truly grasp that you are not going crazy and learn how to benefit from your obsessive mind rather than letting it spiral; this multi-faceted approach is utterly essential in securing permanent immunity from DPDR.

You Can Do This!

Regardless of whether you feel ‘entirely personalized,’ ‘derealized but not depersonalized’ (are these even real words?), or an unsavory combination of the two, the contents of my book, when put into practice and paired with other common DPDR treatments, has a very high potential to help you.

Every last visual, perceptive symptom, and every last niggling worry about yourself or reality, in general, will vanish, and you will see exactly what I mean. You will understand that overcoming what we call “DPDR” can be achieved when we analyze the condition in order to rise above it, rather than in order to needlessly diagnose ourselves.

Sources and Further Reading

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Lucy