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Derealization and Depersonalization: Perceived Madness

What is derealization

Yesterday I received a private message from someone who’d been experiencing a good bit of depersonalization over the past few weeks, and was looking for all the help she could find. And who wouldn’t? Derealization and depersonalization are flat-out horrifying. Let’s chat…

As derealization presents, one becomes extremely concerned about what to do and how to find help. See, it’s all about the fear of being and appearing, well, out of your mind.

I wrote a piece on derealization and depersonalization (DD) a long time ago. It’s been such a “popular” topic over time that I decided to do a rewrite and present it once more. However, it’s going to be even better this time around because I’m going to deliver the goods in three parts.

Now, just two warnings going into the series. If you haven’t had the pleasure of DDs company, don’t believe it’s only a matter of time. Not true. You may never have to deal with it. And if you’re experiencing DD, don’t make any more out of it than what it really is – and you’re about to learn.

What Are Derealization and Depersonalization?

No doubt about it, DD are two of the most horrifying phenomena within the realm of the emotional and mental disorders. I’ve experienced both, and I can tell you they can be absolutely crippling, taking you to the very boundaries of what you believe is the playground of insanity.

Derealization is a disturbing sensation of unreality and detachment from one’s immediate world. During an episode, you can see clearly and have no problems with orientation, but it’s as though you’re operating in a very exclusive dimension. As derealization presents, one becomes extremely concerned about what to do and how to find help. See, it’s all about the fear of being and appearing, well, out of your mind.

I remember my first dance with derealization as if it was yesterday. I was nine-years-old and our family was visiting friends. We were all sitting at the kitchen table, and I happened to look at the hand of one of our hosts. He had a finger missing. And it was like, Bam! Derealization hit and I had absolutely no idea what was going down.

All I knew to do was get up from the table, with the excuse that I had to use the bathroom. Fact of the matter was, I wanted to bolt out the back door and run, and run, and run – for years.

I had several more episodes of derealization as a kid, and it paid a return visit my junior year in college. It was an on again/off again issue into my early-30s. Cool thing is, I’ve not dealt with it for many years now.

Now, just as derealization is an external perceptual issue, depersonalization is an equally disturbing self-perception phenomenon.

My first taste of it was during my junior year in college (I guess the derealization needed some company). I’ll never forget walking into the house a bunch of us guys rented, and looking at a photo of us taken at a party. There was this guy in the back row, center, who looked really familiar. Hmmm, I knew who he was, but didn’t. Well, you guessed it, he was me.

Just like derealization, I dealt with depersonalization into my early 30s, and it hasn’t been a factor since.

What Causes Derealization and Depersonalization?

Recent research has suggested that extraordinary and frightening sensations such as near-death and out-of-body experiences (which I believe are in the same ballpark as derealization and depersonalization) may occur because of stress-induced “malfunctioning” brain chemistry.

For example, a structure in the temporal lobe (lower side) of the brain known as the angular gyrus, specifically the right angular gyrus, is believed to process sensory input in an effort to aid in the perception of our physical selves.

Featured in one particular study was a seizure disorder patient participating in a course of electrical stimulation treatment. During a procedure the electrodes were applied to the right side of the patient’s head (right angular gyrus?), and guess what? When the juice was turned on the patient reported an out-of-body experience.

Now, this research doesn’t specifically address the cause of derealization and depersonalization; however, it begins to point some fingers. At least I think so.

Okay, okay – I need to pull the reins in on part one. This is extremely important and complex material, and if we move too fast, lots will be lost.

Please come back tomorrow as we boldly continue our journey. Buckets of fascinating and relief-generating material, to be sure.

In the meantime, plenty of Chipur titles await your perusal. Go ahead and check ’em out.

  • Stacey

    My mom has suffered with these symptoms for years, and I am wondering if there is anything that can help, even if it’s just a little bit.  Relaxation exercises, meditating?

    • Stacey – first of all, thank you for visiting chipur and thanks for your comment. DD are a very icky phenomena. And managing them – making them go away – depends largely upon what’s causing them. I’m not thinking your mom is dealing with a severe neurological situation – far and away most enduring DD aren’t. I’ve found DD are most often a manifestation of severe anxiety. Again, the mind’s way of providing a filter of protection. I don’t know if your mom is being treated for an anxiety or mood disorder – or if she’s taking medications. If you don’t mind sharing that info, it would help me provide better feedback. In the meantime, yes, relaxation exercises and meditation would help – sure. In my opinion, from tons of experience, just knowing DD are a phenomena that’s of our creation – and knowing it doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement – is the first order of recovery business.

  • cwilcox

    This has helped me so much! I can’t wait to read the second and other articles. I have been struggling with extreme DD for about a year now. Meds, therapy, nothing is working, but I have a little bit of hope now reading your articles. Thank you.

    • …and hope is what it’s all about, cwilcox! I remember all too well what went through my mind and soul when DD came a callin’. I mean, I thought it (whatever “it” truly was) was over. And then I came to understand what was going-on and could at least tolerate the awful sensations. Ultimately? They went bye-bye. Go figure. I’m glad the article helped – and I believe you’ll find Parts 2&3 equally as beneficial.

      Thank you for visting Chipur and participating…

  • Patricia Miller

    You have done a great job of explaining something that is extremely frightening. Thank you for the great information.

    • Just a little something I learned at the “school of hard knocks.” Nothing like a reasonable explanation when we’re in the midst of terror. I’ve always found it very comforting. Thanks, as always, Patricia…

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