May 23, 2008
For a person who is experiencing this for the first time...it can be VERY upsetting and disturbing. I was there before as well...the first time I went through this, I was convinced there was something wrong with my eyes. Everything just "looked" so weird, so odd. I almost felt like I was having out of body experiences...or was watching the world through a movie projector, instead of through my own eyes and mind. Therefore, I am going to share with you all what *I* know about these phenomena, and hopefully reassure some of you that this is par for the anxiety course...it while irritating, maybe even maddening...it is totally harmless.
Derealization and depersonalization are two terms that are sometimes used interchangably. Truth is, they DO vary a little bit in their presentation....but overall, they also are VERY similar. ONE important thing to remember that I learned, and have never forgotten is that these two effects CANNOT exist without anxiety.....but that anxiety can exist without these sensations.
Derealization is basically a change, an alteration in the PERCEPTION or experience of the external world....in other words...everything LOOKS very strange, very "unreal" (movie like, in my experiences). Depersonalization is a subjective experience of unreality of one's self. So the difference is...rerealization relates more to the external environment...our outside world, whereas depersonalization relates more to our sense of "self"...that "we" don't feel like who we are.
Both of these sensations are caused by a shift/change in the brain. It occurs in the area of the brain that provides us with a "real" awareness of our environment. The part of the brain is directly linked to the "Amygdala", which is the organ in the brain responsible for causing anxiety.
Of course, the fact that while having a high level of anxiety, we are SUPER sensitized to every sensation, feeling, symptom....adds to derealization and depersonalization. Also, you can have one without the other. Most of MY experiences have been with derealization, and I have a friend who suffered more from depersonalization...she explained it as feeling "numb' and more like an inanimate object than a person. The great news is..once the anxiety is addressed, these feelings start to gradually fade into the bakground...until one day you realize it is gone.
I hope this helps some people that have experienced this can have a better understanding of this. I know I felt sooo much better after finding out that I wasn't truly going insane...and that what I was experiencing were very common panic/anxiety symptoms.