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Derealization (A Complete Guide) | HFNE

Derealization (A complete guide)

Derealization

This guide provides a comprehensive overview of Derealization, including its symptoms, how it affects different people, its causes, and how it can be managed. It will also address any doubts that you may have about this disorder. Some valuable resources may help you to deal with the symptoms of this disorder.

Derealization (A complete guide)

Derealization is a disorder in which a person may perceive their environment to be unreal. They usually feel that they are distant from the rest of their surroundings. Derealization could involve feelings of distancing oneself from people as well. You may feel as if the world has become strange. 

What is Derealization? 

Derealization is a purely physiological condition that has no natural causes. This means that it is often not accompanied by other mental illnesses. Although the symptoms may seem similar to those experienced in other conditions such as delirium, they are not as complex. In derealization, you may hear voices as if they are far off even though they are quite close up.

Although derealization is a disorder, it is not classified as a psychotic disorder. Instead, it is classified as a dissociative disorder. This means that although the patients are experiencing a physiological effect that causes them to see reality as distorted, they are also well aware of what is happening around them as well. With derealization, you are often aware that what is happening around you is quite real. 

 A part of derealization involves the feeling that you are ‘outside’ your body and that you are viewing your surroundings from another perspective. This may be a feeling of extra awareness of what is happening in the surroundings. However, you may feel a certain numbness, and you may not feel your senses for some time. In short, derealization n is a condition where you may feel completely detached from your surroundings.

Another difference between derealization and other mental disorders is that while the person may feel detached from their surroundings and they may be unable to feel their senses, they are also able to break out of this feeling at will. In many other disorders with natural causes, the patient is unable to control or break out of the episodes.

Potential Causes of Derealization

Derealization is a feeling or state of mind. It has many different causes. These include both physiological as well as psychological disorders. People with derealization may be at risk due to their lifestyle patterns as well. Some of the major causes include: 

Other mental health disorders- If you have a mental condition such as schizophrenia, then you may experience derealization as a symptom of this disorder. Many different mental disorders may cause derealization. People who frequently experience episodes of derealization may experience other symptoms of mental illness as well.

Derealization (A complete guide)

Stress- Derealization is often caused after one has gone through a period of anxiety or stress. You may experience derealization symptoms after the death of a loved one or in a situation whet you may feel helpless and distressed. People with derealization often see their surroundings as blurry, and this is usually an indication that they have undergone a period of stress in their lives.

Brain damage- Another major cause of derealization is brain damage. Damage to the frontal lobe of the brain often causes derealization symptoms. If you have not been diagnosed with brain damage and you’ve had an injury recently, you should consult a doctor to see whether these symptoms are as a result of brain damage. 

Recreational drugs- While derealization has some clinical causes, many external factors may cause one to experience such effects. If you are addicted to recreational drugs such as marijuana or cocaine, you may experience derealization symptoms. This could also occur if you start to withdraw from these drugs. It may also be a symptom of alcohol withdrawal.

In most cases, people who are under stress or addicted to depressants are more likely to experience derealization. If you have experienced a traumatic event in your childhood, or you have a tendency to avoid emotional situations, your brain may use derealization as a way to cope with stress from the external environment. 

How is derealization diagnosed? 

The DSM-5 has set three main criteria for the diagnosis of derealization:

  1. The episodes should occur frequently. If you’ve only experienced such symptoms for a day or two, it could be due to a headache.
  2. The patient has to know that their feelings are merely a psychological issue and that it is not real. You should be aware that the surroundings are not blurry or foggy. If the patient believes that their experiences are genuine, then it usually indicates another mental disorder.
  3. The symptoms have to be severe enough to cause disruptions in your daily life. You may feel see the surroundings as foggy even though your eyesight is fine. This could lead to problems in everyday life as you may not be able to drive or do specific tasks.

Major symptoms of derealization

Symptoms of derealization include: 

  • You may be unable to connect with your emotions. In other words, it may be difficult for you to connect with your surroundings. Some people may be unable to feel their sensations. 
  • You may also feel that the surrounding objects are distorted. For example, people’s faces may appear to be square. 
  • Another major symptom of derealization is that you may feel as if time itself has slowed down. The events around you seem to be taking place as if you are watching it from a television screen 
  • Some people may feel as if time has sped up and everting around them is happening much faster than usual. 

These symptoms most frequently occur to be regarded as derealization. People who experience such symptoms only once or twice do not fit the description for derealization. It is also important to note that many of these symptoms affect people on a larger scale. While you may experience a headache or some of these symptoms when you are tired, they cannot be considered symptoms of derealization. 

They have the ability to disrupt your daily routine significantly. You may not be able to perform certain everyday tasks. Some people may experience a lack of appetite as they often feel detached from sensations such as hunger or thirst. In addition to this, you may slow down for no particular reason. 

These symptoms usually occur for prolonged periods. You may experience these symptoms for just a few hours to a few months, depending on the severity of the symptoms. However, during the entire period, you may be aware that these symptoms are not real. 

Derealization (A complete guide)

Treatment Options

Derealization does not classify as a psychotic disorder, and therefore there are no medications that can be used to treat the condition. While this disorder is quite common, and many doctors might prescribe anti-depressants to deal with the stress experienced as a result of these symptoms, medication does not usually work to cure this condition.

Most of the treatment is based on various types of therapy that can assist patients by identifying the underlying cause behind their stress and working to target it. Therapies used to cure derealization include: 

Psychotherapy- Psychotherapy is generally used to treat many mental disorders. This includes counselling as well as different mental exercises that your phycologist may prescribe. This technique has been proven to be effective in treating many mental illnesses. 

Cognitive-behavioural therapy– This is another popular method used to help patients block out negative thoughts from their mind. It may include a session that will help you focus on the reality around you and remove your attention from the illness itself. 

Grounding- This involves techniques that help you gain access to your senses by appealing to the major senses. For example, you may be given an extremely cold object to help you break out of your numbness.

Most patients respond positively to therapy. Although derealization may become chronic, and the symptoms may be severe, they can be significantly reduced through proper therapy. For example, if you are experiencing derealization due to a reaction to a traumatic event, therapy may help address your underlying fears.

Some helpful resources

  1. For motivation on how to cure derealization, this book is a great read. It includes a person’s story of how they overcame this condition to live a normal life. “Depersonalization: How I Recovered and How You Can Too”. 
  2. Another great motivational resource that helps you recover from derealization is “A Return to Self: Depersonalization and How to Overcome It”. 
  3. If you are looking for specific techniques that will help you overcome this disorder, then this book is just for you. “A way of overcoming Depersonalization and Derealization: Unreality disorder.”
  4. If stress is causing you to experience derealization, then you should consider keeping this fidget spinner. “Updated Version Anti-Anxiety Fidget Spinner”.
  5. Music is another great way to deal with stress and traumatic situations. It will also assist you in reconnecting with reality. Try this Calming Music album from Amazon. 
Derealization (A complete guide)

Conclusion

Derealization is a condition that can affect anyone regardless of their gender. Although the symptoms are similar to those in other mental illnesses, they differ in the sense that the patient is aware of what is happening to them. Patients may experience symptoms that cause them to feel that their surroundings are unreal or distorted. Although this condition is deeply rooted in trauma and stress, it can be cured using proper therapeutic techniques. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes Derealization?

Derealization is caused due to extreme stress or trauma. It can also happen as a side effect of recreational drugs. Many patients may experience derealization due to witnessing abuse or the death of a close relative. 

What are the symptoms of Derealization?

Derealization symptoms include feelings of detachedness, blurriness or a feeling that the environment is distorted from reality. A person may also feel as if time has slowed down or sped up. 

Is Derealization a psychosis?

Derealization is not a psychosis as the patient is usually aware that their experiences are not true. In psychosis, most patients are not aware of what is happening to them. 

Does Derealization go away?

Yes, in some cases, derealization can be cured without any treatment. However, with proper treatment, it is more likely that derealization will go away.

How long can depersonalization last?

Derealization can last for a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the symptoms. However, the symptoms are usually prolonged. 

Can Derealization be cured?

Yes, Derealization is a curable disease. In many cases, psychotherapy is effective in curing derealization as it addresses the underlying causes. With proper therapy, derealization can be cured at least the symptoms may be reduced.

References

  1. An Overview of Derealization
  2. What is Derealization?
  3. Derealization, causes and symptoms
  4. Psychotherapy for Derealization
  5. A comprehensive guide about derealization
  6. Depersonalization vs Derealization

Derealization (A complete guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

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