View Full Version : derealisation/depersonlisation

18-02-05, 15:02
Hi Guys,

Just a quick note - one of my most disturbing symptoms is derealisation/depersonlisation - which out of everything is for me the hardest to overcome, and generally comes on now and again - and out of all symptoms is the one that can seem to return the most.

I also find it is generally there is very little info about it, both from proffessionals and other sources, so i pretty much decided i was gonna have to live with it. Until that is the other day - I came across the most brilliant book called "The stranger in the mirror - dissociation the hidden epidemic" by Marlen Steinberg and Maxin Schnall. It's all about derealisation/depersonlisation - and expalins really clearly load s about it. The authors have conducted loads of research that shows derealisation/depersonlisation is really common in everyone - and is a normal stress reaction. But that in some it can happen easily and get stuck - going into the extremes of multiple personalities etc.

Basically it debunks something that i always had ie the niggling worry that it really was evidence that i was slowly going mad - and something that i really had trouble explaining. Not at all - daydreaming, losing yourself in a book or film, are all common signs of derealisation/depersonlisation that are normal and common - its just they get more and more extreme the more stressed and anxious you get - it's just your bodies defence mechanism protecting you against trauma.

it's great you can get it on Amazon - reassurance on tap!



18-02-05, 15:15
Hi nikk,

I must confess I know very little about this subject? Would you mind telling me more about it, what are the symptoms etc.?


Take little steps and remember it is OK if your recovery is not a smooth one.

18-02-05, 15:41
Thanks for the tip Nikk!! :D

18-02-05, 16:38
Nikk we had someone specifically asking for help with this persistant DP recently so thanks for the recommendation.

You cannot conquer fear until you have learned what it is you're afraid of. The enemy is ignorance. Vivian Vance

18-02-05, 20:01

I will add it to my recommended book list as well.


18-02-05, 20:17

Thanks for the info. DP/DR are my worst symptoms and terrify me. I seem to be stuck with the feelings 24/7.


I really could do with this book. I will try through your list. Thanks very much.

If I could only understand these horrid feelings, maybe I could manage them.

Thanks again
Jude x.

19-02-05, 11:33
Thanks Nikk for the link

I get DP/DR and for me, they're harder to deal with than a full-blown PA, I really hate them.. I'm not sure I'll read the book, part of me thinks ignorance is bliss but I will bear it in mind!

Thanks again


19-02-05, 18:59
Here is a link to the book on Amazon


If you buy it from this link I get 5% commission for the website funds.


19-02-05, 21:09
Hi Nicola,

Iv order it through your link, thanks.


Thanks again for the info. I just hope it doesnt scare the pants off me now[:P]

Jude x

20-02-05, 14:46

Thanks very much - every little helps as they say.


25-08-05, 08:30
Hi nik

what do you mean that in some extremes it can lead to multiple personality - this has worried me slightly as this scares me as much as going mad too.


25-08-05, 15:42
This topic really interests me. It formed the basis of my breakdown.
I had tried for so many years to fight anxiety. Every time I conquered one fear another one would pop up. Underlying it all was a constant fear of going out, but I wouldn't give in to it because i had 3 children and didnt want their lives blighted. So i kept on facing all my fears but wearing myself down because I wasnt really getting over my core anxiety.
In desperation I bought a hypnosis videotape to help with anxiety which I watched every day for a couple of weeks.
It didnt seem to help-indeed i just got worse and worse.
One day I looked in the mirror and didn't know who i was.
I had detached completely, and although I knew my name and didnt lose my memory, I felt like a stranger in my own body.
I found the whole thing so terrifying, i had a breakdown. The depersonalisation was so profound, that it became permanent. There was not one moment of one day when i felt that "me" was in. I truly lost my sense of self.
I found it hard to describe- the psychiatrist just said it was depersonalisation, but usually that comes and goes. This was constant.
The only person that was able to shed light on it was a hypnotherapist, who told me it was probably watching the tape that had caused it. he said he had seen it before.
I think in retrospect it was my brain's way of switching off in order to learn how to do things without anxiety.
After the initial breakdown, I have gone from strength to strength.
It has taken a very long time, but I conquered all my fears one by one. in the end the only fear I had left was fear of myself because I would not let my true"self" come back.
I hope I am making sense here-its quite hard to put into words.
Anyway just recently, I have been having a setback, but after working my way through i think I am finally there!
Although it was horrible I can see now that it helped me in the long run. Switching off so that you feel numb is your brain's way of helping you cope.
Despite all i went through there was never a moment where I was not sane, only mentally exhausted. I certainly never developed multiple personalities
I lke the sound of that book- I havent read it but the title describes how I was exactly-a stranger in the mirror

andrew england 2
18-03-06, 11:35
having read the reviews of the book and how it mentions multiple personalitys in the review is enough to scare me right away from reading the book

i suffer from depersonalisation and its the one thing i dont know how to fight at all and from everything i have read in the forum it is just a symptom of anxiety and not a cause

that said it is the most horrible feeling to look in the mirror and not feel as tho it is oneself looking back but that said its a symptom of something else

the only time i dont feel depersonalised is when i am half drunk and as i only allow myself 2 nites out a wk now i am only me 2 times a wk

maybe its just better not to be :-)

19-03-06, 00:32
Yes we have had this book posted about before and it scared the living daylights out of several people whereas others liked it enormously.

Seems to depend on how vulnerable you are to the power of suggestions about MPD and that DP in very rare occassions can stick around for years.


proactiveness, positivity, persistence, perseverance and practice = progress

26-09-06, 22:01
Hi all. I would also greatly appreciate any advice on how to control the feelings and effects of derealisation and hopefully eradicate them for good. I have suffered from derealisation and panic attacks which have progressively gotten worse (due to a lack of knowledge as to what was happening to me) and eventually lead me to have a nervous breakdown. I feel like i have to write this not only for myself (through true acknowledgement i can recover) but for those like myself who are left bewildered as to what is happening to them. I thought i was losing my mind. i thought i had a heart defect. i even thought i may have a brain tumour. the point being that by not understanding all the strange symptoms i was experiencing, i turned into a total hypochondriac. even now i'm still wary about reading magazines in case i come across an article which may describe some lethal illness i seem to have the symptoms for. but out of all the symptoms, from the muscle aches to chest pains, derealisation would have to be the most unsettling. most of my other symptoms have now disappeared, bar this one. even though for the most part i don't feel anxious, this spaced-out feeling which has me questioning constantly who the hell i have become, will not leave me alone. granted there are times when i am offered some respite - when i sleep, and when i am sufficiently distracted. in general however, the feeling follows me everywhere. does anyone else have this hazy feeling as a backdrop to their day to day lives? i've even questioned my eyesight. from time to time i feel that my vision isnt as sharp as it used to be. i've been assured that this too is a symptom of anxiety. i'd worked myself up into thinking i was going blind, so i bit the bullet and visited an optometrist who told me my eyes were fine BUT i was long-sighted. well this was enough to send me right back into myself and i dwelled on it for days before i realised how ridiculous i was being. but i wont lie to you, i still have days when my delusions get the better of me. i've just learnt how to prevent them from triggering full blown panic attacks. i don't know whether any of my ramblings are actually helping anyone as i can't say to you that i've come through the other end and i'm totally fine, but i have made HUGE progress and with CBT and the support of those around me, i know i'll find myself again. i hope that with my confession someone else might find some comfort in the fact that they are not alone and they have nothing to be ashamed of. The symptoms they are experiencing are unsettling yes, a total pain in the ar$, but they cannot harm you. we will get through this.

26-09-06, 23:13
Hi everyone, feelings of unreality and depersonalisation are very very common.Anxiety sufferers are always studying themselves, they suffer from emotional and mental fatigue.So their feelings are not in sync with their thoughts.They are very tired this is what causes the feelings of unreality and depersonalisation.Just think about it for a moment.Remember a time before you suffered if you ever stayed awake all night the next day you didnt know where you were.You had feelings of unreality right.Well its exactly the same thing when you suffer from anxiety.Because your thinking all the time you become mentally and emotionally fatigued.This is what causes the feelings of unreality and depersonalisation.Jon

"You have to live with fear to live without fear!"

05-03-08, 21:07
Hi everyone,

This is my very first post and I'm hoping that you can help me. Just over a year ago I started having panic attacks again, after a gap of 9 years, but not only did I have the symptoms of the attacks but there was also a new feeling that accompanied them. I started to feel and think "Oh my God! I'm really alive, and I really exist" and the thoughts began to terrify me. I would look around at people and things that I knew, and although they were recognisable they felt so different and surreal to me. When I get the feelings, it brings an overbearing fear over me, and this can trigger the panic attacks. I have been improving over the last 7 months or so, (although its an everyday battle), but I just and to know if I've been experiencing DR or DP. I'm 24 years old and I am still managing to hold down my job as a teacher, but it is very hard work when everyone around me seems so normal.

I'd be very grateful for an help that you can give me.
Best wishes,


06-03-08, 03:29
I'm not sure I have any answers but I do have some thoughts.

Firstly though, I haven't read or heard of this book but multiple personality disorder is a very rare form of schizophrenia so I just can't see the connection with anxiety because they're Totally different. My wife suffers from schizophrenia so I do know about this illness.

However, I can understand how our anxiety plays tricks on us through our thought processes making us worry we have something that we don't.

When I look in the mirror, I don't see "me". Looking at "me" isn't what I feel inside. Sometimes I feel trapped in a body I don't know. I'm sure though that it's all to do with how I think of myself meaning I have low self esteem.

When I went through my bad days I can remember being in shops and everyone appeared "alien". I felt as if they could all see my anxiety and how I was feeling. Again, I'm sure this was down to my feelings of being self-conscious because of how bad I was feeling inside.

I can also remember doing the washing up and seeing a black hole that I was disappearing into. It really scared me so I had to stop what I was doing and lay on the bed. I didn't know what was going on but now I realise it was a symptom of feeling trapped with no escape and my mind was overloaded.

I feel alot of the 2 D's are connected with inward self conscious deep intense thinking. If we focussed more on things around us and what we're doing rather than on our every day thoughts and what we feel about ourselves, these issues become less of a problem.

We suffer from self doubt and worry so we focus on every thought we have, reacting to our thoughts because some scare us and trying to rationalise those thoughts with intense deep thought processes rather than focussing on life and enjoying things around us.

If we learn to become less intense in our thinking and not focus so much on worrying thoughts we're thinking, we'd enjoy life more and I'm sure the 2 D's would be less of a problem. Why doesn't a confident person experience them?.........because they don't worry, aren't intense, thoughts don't scare them and so they don't think about their their thoughts and feelings intensely.:whistles:

06-03-08, 09:37
Hi, thanks for the book recommendation I will order it today.

If I have this feeling for a lot of the day I describe it as not really waking up properly and feeling sort of dreamy, but being able to function normally.

I am at present widening my life as far as agoraphobia is concerned, and am going out a lot more.

Yesterday I went shopping and was feeling on a high but in the changing rooms got a sudden 'wierd' feeling and for about 20 seconds didnt seem to know where I was. I have read that this is because I have for so long been concentrating on myself and my feelings that to not do this is unreal for me.

Years ago when I would describe myself as 'well', I could drive for miles in a daydream and then suddenly 'come back' and for a second couldn't remember whether or not the traffic lights were on red or green, but didnt worry because I knew I was consiously driving well.

This feeling has been one of the scariest but I am interested in this book and hope it will reasure me, as I believe when we are less looking inward at every feeling and thought and start looking outward it can happen more often as our body re-adjusts to a new way of thinking and behaving.

Christine xx :flowers:

06-03-08, 09:58
Just to add after reading Janet C's reply.

When I was really bad I remember once I was alone in the house and I looked in the bathroom mirror and had the feeling of not knowing who I was, I totally freaked out and phoned my bf and mum, they came home and took me to a& e, I was just crying and really thought I had 'lost it'. But I drove us to the hospital because I was the only one that could, if I had 'lost' it I am sure I couldn't have doen that, or given my name and address perfectly.

I remember my mum and bf looking really upset and not knowing what to do or say, as usual I left after a good examination and after I had calmed down.
That was my first attack of derealization and as we all know the first time we have a panic attack or even something like a toothache or migraine it is the fear of what 'might' happen that is the worst.

I know have attacks but can control them and know I am not losing it or going mad, just usually really overtired.

Maynooth your post was so well said.

Christine xx :flowers:

06-03-08, 16:38
Hi Christineplus3, I too suffer with depersonalisation, or, as I call it, feelings of unreality. I have been this way on and off for almost 2 years now. I find it very, very difficult to cope with and it doesnt help when it comes to driving, as you can appreciate. But I make myself go out every day and walk a bit further. I walked almost a mile round a Wetlands Centre today which was very good going I think, given that just before Xmas I would hardly walk out of the information/cafe building and didnt want to walk away from my car either.

Maynooth I agree with what you are saying completely. I am not as scared of the feeling as I was which is good but it is still with me, to some degree most days, some days are worse than others, some are better.

Have any of you been to www.anxietynomore.co.uk (http://www.anxietynomore.co.uk) ? The man that wrote the website had anxiety for 10 years and only came through it when he found out properly what was wrong with him, and of course why he felt the way he did. He talks a lot about depersonalisation and says that just like all the other anxiety symptoms, we shoud accept it and NOT fight it. The more we fight our feelings, the worse they get.

But I think that I have recently been making the mistake of, everytime I go anywhere, I am looking to see if the unreality has gone!!! And thats not accepting it, is it?!! So I should just go out and not "check" if the unreality is there or not but just get on with what I am doing, regardless.

Its not easy. But I am getting better, slowly but surely.

Love Shirley
x x x

07-03-08, 17:01
Hi Christine, How are you doing today? I hope you are ok. I have been "ok" and been to see the Psychologist again. She had found another book in Borders book shop just by chance about overcoming unreality and depersonalisation. There cant be many such books around, can there? So I am going to see if I can find it although we dont have a Borders Book Shop around here.

I hope you have had an ok day.
Love Shirley
x x x

07-03-08, 17:03
HI Nikk, I think I will look for the book you mention too and buy whichever one I find first. I have had months and months of unreality - its not good is it, though I think the intensity has got a bit less recently.

Hope you are ok.
x x x

16-04-08, 14:20
hello all, unfortunatley i just spent 20 mins typings my whole story on this but for some reason i accidently pasted a chart on to this box and there is no way of getting it of so i clicked back and lost it all, lol ANYWAY...to sum up i have debilitating and stomach wrentching derealisation and depersonalisation steming from aggressive agrophobia. i would love to chat to anyone about it and see if theres a way to beat this!!

22-04-08, 12:46
Just read your message Nik, and would just like to say my partner who has had depression for the past last 11 years and was perscribed anit-depressants has now been told it isnt depression - he has depersonalisation disorder. He is being perscribed a new medication that has just out.

22-04-08, 13:04
Hi Nikk,
My partner who has suffered from depression for the past 11 years and has been on medication and in all that time none of the medication really helped him. He has now been diagnosed with De-personalisation Disorder and has now been given the chance to try some new drugs that have just come onto the market.
So theres hope,

guardian angel
28-04-09, 10:52
I read the book and would just like to throw in my twopenneth...I got a lot of reassurance from the premise that derealisation exists on something of a continuum, that it can be mild through to multiple personality experiences for instance. I also appreciate books such as this one and Claire Weekes (although they are radically different in many ways) that promote acceptance, I'm sure fighting the symptoms, checking for them, analysing them etc actually promotes them, tricky beggars that they are these symptoms try to have us damned both ways.

My problem with the book is probably the same as it is with many such self-help books in that they see too much wood in the trees. There is always a danger that practitioners in any area over-identify cases when they are using a treatment model. There is one case in particular in the book where the patient is described as not presenting with multiple personality disorder for instance but before the end of the case history they are being treated for, and explaining their problems, in the language of someone who does.
I hope anyone who reads the book gets lots from it but if there's one thing I want to take away from it, it's that derealisation feelings are completely normal, they're actually useful and reasonable responses to stress in it's many guises. What I would hope people don't get from it is a sense that the situation is any more dramatic than that, however bad their symptoms may feel (trust me, I've been as bad as it can get).
Overall the book was useful but the one thing I'm learning about anxiety is that it is our bodies way of dealing with life's unfairness. Much of it comes from our own unfair treatment of ourselves. I wouldn't want a book that is trying to be helpful to become yet another way of beating ourselves up.

XX Hayley

15-05-09, 17:47
:yesyes: :yesyes: Thankyou Nikki, I will get this book for my son, he has been suffering derealisation for over a year now and is at the end of his tether. Jill

29-05-09, 06:42
I totally agree with a previous post. I only feel like me when I'm half drunk.
I feel like I actually see things, people, places. I can feel. I can remember. I can think properly and functionally.
It's actually quite sad.
I wish I hadn't done the stupid things I did to get this way.
I know what my trigger was. And I can keep away from it easily enough. But if I ever get to the "EXPOSURE" phase, I'm sunk.
Cause it's illegal.
....I wish you all luck guys. We deserve it.

29-05-09, 10:55
Hi Hayley (if you see this) I am 100% confident that fighting, Monitoring, checking and analysing our symptoms does promote them. Its this inward thinking and looking inward all the time that brings on the unreality - according to Paul David etc etc. And yes it is meant to be there to "give is a break" from all the stress etc but as you know its one of the most scariest things ever. Its taken me the best part of 3 years to get to where I feel 90% or 95% cured from it. I have had it before these last 3 years too. It has ALWAYS gone completely though this has been my longest ever episode. I sympathise with anyone who is troubled with this, really I do. But the Paul David and Claire Weekes books have really helped me.