The core symptom of depersonalization disorder is the subjective experience of “unreality in one’s sense of self”, and as such there are no clinical signs. Patients who suffer from depersonalization also experience an almost uncontrollable urge to question and think about the nature of reality and existence as well as other deep philosophical questions.
~Wikipedia “Depersonalization Disorder”
I was diagnosed with having Depersonalization episodes during my last hospital stay. I had suspected it for years, but the therapist I was seeing at the time (a newbie) seemed rather frightened when I mentioned it & went back to what we had been discussing before I brought it up. That was okay. I did a lot of research on the internet & the episodes weren’t particular disturbing, so whatev. The biggest impact the diagnosis had on me was learning nausea & light-headedness were a part of the episodes. I have always had issues with those, but no one was every able to find a physical reason why.
Reading over other people’s experiences in the Depersonalization tag on tumblr, it occurred to me I have never talked about mine. I read some things that rang true for me, but I had never associated with Depersonalization, so it prompted me to talk about my experience.
They mentioned life never feeling real, & that is so true for me. One of the things I have struggle with most is the feeling that my life isn’t real. Even as a kid I felt like I was living in a TV show & any minute now the world was going to fall down exposing the crew behind the set I was living in. I would love it if those feelings could be fixed because I feel like I miss a lot of the quality of life feeling unreal & questioning so many aspects of it. It makes it very difficult to live in the moment & not get swept up in the worrying. Apparently obsessive questioning of life & reality is one of the symptoms.
I went through a lot of articles, but the Buzzle entry had the best definition, “Depersonalization disorder is a period of disconnect or detachment a person has from his/her body and thoughts. It causes one to feel as if they are living a dream and are detached from themselves. This episode of depersonalization episode may last for a few minutes, hours, and in some cases for years. The comorbidity includes obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, major depression. The characteristic sign is that the person is totally aware that he/she is not an automaton. They are aware of the reality that the sensations and feelings experienced by them are not true.” The bolded portion is the distinction I found in this definition that was not in the others I saw. That is what separates DD from psychosis, we know what’s happening isn’t real. It’s classified as one of the Dissociative Disorders.
Depersonalization is strongly associated with traumatic events & childhood abuse, particularly emotional abuse. I was emotionally & sexually abused growing up, so I have that covered, as well as the connection with anxiety & Major Depressive Disorder. (I’ve also done a lot of hallucinogens, but this was going on way before then.) In recent years, studies have shown it to have a neurobiological component, which has been shown in brain scans, but it’s hard to say if the function of the brain caused the disorder, or the disorder caused the changes in the brain. I found some research articles on the American Journal of Psychiatry, but they wouldn’t let me access them. Bastards.
My Depers is related to my anxiety. When I become extremely stressed around people I begin to feel nauseous & light-headed, then colors begin to get bright & change. If you’ve ever done acid it feels a lot like that. After the colors start changing & pulsing, sounds begin to get farther away & I can feel myself floating away. If it goes far enough I begin to see the world through a tunnel. It is like looking down through a pipe. I have a small round view of the scene & the rest of my vision is black. It’s really bizarre.
I don’t really know how long I have had this because I honestly never thought a lot about them until I was in the hospital & after a week of being surrounded by people with nowhere to go to be alone I spent two days constantly battling episodes before mentioning it to the doctor & being put on twice daily doses of my Buspar. The episodes aren’t bad because they are usually short-lived & haven’t ever scared me – since I know they aren’t real, & the world isn’t really melting & I’m not really floating away, but as I said before the feeling my life isn’t real is rather discomforting.
I don’t know if this will be of interest to anyone reading this, but I wanted to put it out there in case anyone else recognizes their own problems in mine. My experience tells me most people have never heard of Depersonalization/Derealization.