“Depersonalization Brings A Feeling of Detachment From The World. Real Or Unreal? I Asked Myself For 6 Years Before My Recovery.”
Anxiety can be overwhelming and can cause the mind to do some extremely abnormal things like depersonalization, which is considered as a symptom of anxiety and usually triggers escalating worsening of both anxiety and depersonalization.
Depersonalization is a state when the mind feels divorced or distant from the sense of self. It refers to a condition of excessive self-awareness marked by feelings of floating or being outside the body and a consciousness that disowns one’s own actions.
Depersonalization is often regarded as a dissociative symptom that may occur on its own or with other ailments like depression, anxiety, panic disorders, or bipolar disorder, etc. It may be triggered by severe traumatic incidents, prolonged anxiety or stress, drug or alcohol abuse, or other health problems.
In most cases, depersonalization is believed to be a brain’s coping mechanism which becomes more sensitive or aware, so as to decrease the intensity of trauma or stress. Depersonalization may also occur unexpectedly in the absence of extreme anxiety or stress.
Severe and chronic depersonalization and anxiety can adversely affect work, relationships, and daily life. Treatment includes psychotherapy, medications, and self-care measures.
Symptoms of Depersonalization and Anxiety
Depersonalization is a condition consisting of a mix of emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts which trigger disengagement from the surroundings and a sense that one is not actually in one’s own body. Patients may fear that they are somewhere else and may watch their own body while feeling that they are floating around in some other world.
Depersonalization can cause a variety of symptoms, but the most common is sensations of losing touch with reality and fearing that it may be permanently lost. A few symptoms of depersonalization and anxiety are listed below:
- Feelings of being disconnected or being an external observer of one’s own feelings, thoughts, actions, or parts of the body or the entire body, similar to floating in air outside one’s own body
- A sense that the legs, hands, or body is shrunken, distorted, or enlarged and/or that the head is enclosed in cotton
- Feeling that body movements or speech cannot be controlled or that one is a robotic thing
- Questioning just about everything, including the reality of the surroundings, one’s faith, the purpose of life, the meaning of life, etc.
- Feeling foreign even in places that are familiar or known. People with severe depersonalization may not recognize personal things, their home, or friends, etc.
- Feeling that things which were once important are not significant. Physical or emotional numbing of the responses or senses to the environment, people, and the worldly ways
Also you may feel totally immersed in self-thoughts; feelings of being in a different dimension. In some cases, people may find themselves in an area and not remember how they got there.
Hyper self-awareness marked by constant and continuous over thinking and/or analysis of every little thing is quite common as well. Feeling that personal memories are emotionless and they may or may not be someone else’s memories. In some instances, sufferers may not be aware of what they did when in a state of depersonalization
Causes of Depersonalization and Anxiety
It is believed that depersonalization occurs when a person loses interest in the going-ons around him/her, especially in the social environment, and becomes preoccupied with one’s own thoughts. In most cases, the thoughts may not be about his/her current life state or his surroundings, but of different times, people, and places, etc.
Reduced involvement in immediate environment generally causes the mind to wander and focus attention and energy onto themes that can occur only in one’s imagination. In most cases, loss of interest in current circumstances is often triggered by anxiety, excess stress, and other triggers.
Doctors are not aware about the precise cause/causes of depersonalization. But it seems to have some sort of association with imbalance of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Such imbalance can increase the susceptibility of brain to develop depersonalization in times of heightened anxiety, fear, or stress, etc.
Symptoms of depersonalization and anxiety may be associated to the following:
- Emotion, verbal, or physical abuse during childhood or being a witness to constant domestic violence as a child
- Extreme trauma like being in a motor accident
- Sudden death or suicide of a family member or close friend
- Growing up with a parent who is severely mentally impaired
- Extreme stress-causing financial, relationship, or job issues
The below listed risk factors can increase the susceptibility to developing depersonalization:
- Presence of underlying physical/mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, seizures, head injuries, etc.
- Personality traits that causes avoidance or denial of problematic situations or difficulties in adapting to them
- Using illegal substances like marijuana, hallucinogens, etc.
- Teens and young adults are more prone to depersonalization than children or the elderly
- Personally experiencing or witnessing abuse or trauma
First Line Of Treatments In Today’s World For Depersonalization and Anxiety:
CBT sessions with a trained practitioners allows people to understand the reasons for occurrence of depersonalization and anxiety, thereby help efficiently manage symptoms of anxiety until they disappear. Doctors may also opt for techniques like psychodynamic therapy.
There are no specific medications for treatment of depersonalization. Doctors may however prescribe anxiety and depression medicines like Prozac/fluoxetine, clonazepam, or clomipramine if required.
Self care measures to overcome depersonalization are as follows:
Depersonalization may be distressing but not dangerous. It is temporary and hence needs to be waited and worked out. Do not fight the condition, but learn to be ok with it. Hyperventilation tends to worsen anxiety or panic attacks and it is during such heightened cases of anxiety that depersonalization occurs. Hence, dramatically slow down breathing during an episode to alleviate the symptoms.
Deep breaths and practicing varied breathing exercises can help prevent frequent episodes. Meditation, yoga, jogging, and other exercises help gain more control of the body and mind and thus help prevent it from wandering off into an imaginative world.
In addition to counseling, talking to a person whom you trust is also helpful. Do something distracting that turns your attention back to reality. You may watch a video, or call someone, reading book, etc. You may also try to focus on what’s happening in the immediate present surroundings and events. Be more social (party, go out with friends, etc.); keep busy; avoid drugs and alcohol; and sleep well.