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TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

If you're someone going through dissociation then you know how scary it can get. I'm one of them. I've been chronically dissociating for more than a year and there's so much that I've learned that I would love to share with everyone.


First thing I learned is:

Derealisation is feeling disconnected from your environment and sensations like your body might not feel real. E.g. somebody is controlling you

Depersonalisation is feeling that you are unreal. E.g. you might observe yourself from a third perspective and watch yourself as if they were another person


All of these feelings are valid, real and normal (in a sense). And something else i learned over the year is that...

Dissociation is a coping mechanism for your body when it can't deal with something. It might be trauma, stress or anxiety. It's a sensation that is there to protect yourself and isn't really something that can be fought off not until one addresses the source of their anxiety or stress (from my experience with professionals at least). 


The causes and reasons for why people dissociate are different. Some people cite childhood trauma, some cite existential thinking, others smoke certain drugs. It could be anything and everything but know that YOU'RE NOT ALONE!! Far from it, it's actually quite common (nearly half of American adults exhibit symptoms for a short time) so you could only imagine how many develop it chronically. Once again, you're not alone.


The reason why I'm sharing this thread is to provide a safe space for everyone to talk about their experiences, what's worked for them, what hasn't worked for them and to seek advice on their current journey into recovering from these experiences.


I want to help you guys as much as you can help me! 


Current things that work for me:

- yoga (helps regulate my anxiety)

- exercise about 30 mins and sweating (this boosts mood and hopefulness)

- drinking lots of water (reduces headaches and dizziness)

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

Hey @wanderingwasp thank you for making such an awesome post and sharing your knowledge about dissociation, derealisation, and depersonalisation!! It's really brave of you to share your own experiences with dissociation and the things that've been helping you cope Heart 

I've just moved your post to a different section of the forums so that more people will be able to see it and share their own tips and experiences!! Heart



We had a live chat on Accessing Mental Health Support Online! Smiley Very Happy Check it out here! Heart

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

Hi @wanderingwasp 
Thank you for this helpful post, it is really nice to see people discussing niche mental health topics in a way that is constructive and welcoming to everyone. I'm sure there its lots of connections to be made and learning to be had here, and @ecla34 has started some great dialogue already!

I can't personally relate to these things per say, but one thing that may be helpful in a more general sense is journalling how you feel after the fact, if that feels safe and right for you. It can help you make sense of what's happening and why. This may not be the right option or everyone, but it could be worth trying out. Feel free to discuss it with a trusted adult or your mental health professional Smiley Happy 

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

Hi, @wanderingwasp 

I made a similar thread a while ago because I felt like it wasn't talked about a lot. I think its really great that you've started this thread, as dp/dr is something that isn't that widely known. It's nice for people to be able to know they aren't alone.


I dealt with dp/dr for a a couple of years, and I still deal with it sometimes. But when I was in the depths of it, I thought I was never going to be free from it. It truly is a horrible feeling. I remember feeling like I had lost all grip on reality, I thought I was going 'insane'. I felt entirely disconnected from my surroundings, the people around me, and even my reflection. Everything felt almost two dimensional and simply 'unreal'. I also struggled with feeling like I was stuck inside my body, and having 'inner body' experiences, where it felt like I was behind my eyes and not in control of my body at all, if that makes sense. Feeling as though there were a pane of glass between me and the rest of the world. Something else that really troubled me was being emotionally numb, and feeling entirely retreated, almost like I was just a shell of the person I use to be.

During this hard time, I thought it would never go away and I would have to live with it forever, and I would never feel again, like I use to. However, what helped me, was talking about it to others, and trying to address what had happened to me, in my case it was extreme stress and repeated low-level trauma.

DP/DR isn't easy to deal with. And its something that a lot of people who haven't experienced it, will have trouble understanding. I remember telling my mum one night, and she actually got a little offended once I told her I couldn't feel any emotion towards anyone; that I knew I loved my family, but I couldn't feel it. 

Things that helped me get through this, and finally into a better place where I rarely have to deal with it like I use to, were mainly:

Trying to address what had triggered it in the first place.

Trying to be understanding towards myself and of DP/DR by educating myself on it, so I was no longer as afraid or confused about it, and less alone in it.

Trying not to freak out or focus on the feeling of dissociation, because in my experience it only made the feeling temporarily worse, because it can signal to the brain that it needs to 'protect' you more, and so it tries to pull you away from it, but only results in taking you deeper into the feeling.

Grounding techniques is something I used a lot, so like, putting my hand on a cold surface and focusing on the feeling, listing things for each of my senses, what can I smell, what can I see, what can I touch, what can I hear. Sometimes I would simply touch objects around me to better help me feel grounded and aware of my surroundings, and to remind myself that the things around me were real and three dimensional.

Listening to meditation or calming music without vocals, and doing breathing exercises.

Talking to people and getting professional support.

And, one of the most important, being patient and kind with myself.


DP/DR can be extremely troubling and disheartening and scary, but it does improve. It can take a while, but you are not alone. You matter. You are enough. You are real, and everything around you is. You will be okay. I have been in the depths of it, and felt as though I would never be free from it. But with time, I got to where I am now, which is a much, much better place.

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

Hello and thank you so much for this heartfelt reply!! i can't thank you enough. I would love to read your original thread as i'm sure it would have some handy insight and replies?!


It comforts me a great deal to know that you've mostly gotten in control over your experiences as I'm currently in the middle of this sandstorm and like you mentioned, I have all the symptoms and it's honestly hell at times.


I came across this handy article a few days ago and it feels like it applies to me as I've addressed some trauma with my psych and the DP/DR hasn't gone away. Basically the article said that this form of dissociation is like a triggering cycle, where you feel the temporary dissociation but because you freak out and have catastrophic thoughts like "it'll never end", it increases ur stress response and "justifies" the dissociation experience, hence extending it. So, I feel like I'm in the constant triggering cycle.


These days I am still working with a psychologist, and when I realise I'm dissociating I don't panic. I simply acknowledge it and move on. I think you may be the first person I have talked to who actually has/had the condition and it please me a lot! So thank you!!!!


May I ask a question? When was the moment that you realised the dissociation lifted?

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

@wanderingwasp I'm so glad that my reply may have comforted you a bit. I know how horrible the experience is. 

The whole 'triggering cycle' is really tricky, and it was actually one of the hardest parts of trying to overcome it, because my immediate response to such dissociation was to freak out, but it only made it worse. At one point I was just in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety, and I actually spiraled into a bit of a mental break down because I felt like I was losing my mind and I couldn't handle it anymore. It was actually from that point onwards that things started getting a bit better. It took a while, and I was in this really really anxious space of obsessive thinking and anxiety and detachment for a couple of months, and it was absolute hell, but I learnt a lot from it. I had to learn to sit with discomfort and fear and detachment, and not fuel it by freaking out or focusing on it, which is not an easy thing to do at first. I use to think about the dp/dr every day because I was desperate to be over it, but I had to learn to think and focus on it as little as possible. When it was super intense and I was really aware of it, I had to try and act as though it were nothing, so as not to tell my brain it was something 'significant' or something it had to 'protect' me from.

So, honestly there wasn't an exact moment when I realised it was gone. It happened very gradually, so much that I didn't really notice it happening. From not focusing on it, it became natural for me to not to think about it, and so it kind of just faded and became less intense over time. Its hard because its kind of like a lifting fog, if you sit and stare at it, it will likely seem like nothing is changing, but if you look away and then look back after a while ,you'll realise that it's gone. Its really hard because desperately wanting it to leave will usually only extend it. The main point, at least for me, was trying to forget about it, not focus on it, give it less power and energy from my thought and anxieties. But also learning to be more comfortable with the feeling of dissociation, and realising it was not an inherently terrifying or terrible thing, and I started seeing it more as something my brain had done to protect me.

But I can say now, that I get moments where I notice that the dp/dr is mostly gone, because suddenly I am feeling something. Suddenly, I am liking someone, or missing someone, and I am reminded that I can finally feel things again. Sometimes I am sitting outside and suddenly I feel like all my surroundings come into focus, I can feel the world around me, my senses aren't numb, I feel like I am present in the moment, and it is wonderful. 

I do still struggle with it sometimes, it isn't entirely gone, but I'm okay with that because I stopped believing in being 'better again' or back to something I used to be. I learnt that recovery does not lead to that paradise place of 'better', sometimes it only leads to okay, before it can lead to good, and that is enough. Sometimes you relapse, or you think you're over something and then you're pulled back into it, and that's okay too. 

It will take a while for you to notice that it has lifted, when it finally does. But you will notice it eventually. 

I hope that wasn't too long, and I hope that made sense. I struggled with it for a long time, and I know there isn't a lot of support or conversation around it, so if you have any other questions or you just want to talk about your experiences and symptoms, than I am always open to talk to. 

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

thank you!!! the response wasn't long at all Smiley Happy i appreciate everything that you've said and i've carried it into my heart. i find this really useful!


I was also wondering how to generally reduce anxiety during the day? I've found that over the past year I've finally calmed down from panicking and i can realise my derealisation with a more calm feeling but i am still aware that physiologically my heart rate is rapid and i feel uneasy in my chest despite feeling mentally calm?


Would you be able to suggest anything to help with the general anxiety? I've been doing meditation and find it useful Smiley Happy

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

@wanderingwasp For general anxiety and physical symptoms of it, I found it quite hard because the physical symptoms were with me for a long time, even a while after I had stopped feeling so anxious. I just tried to do breathing techniques, grounding excersices, spending time in nature, sometimes when I was fidgety and restless I would try and do a workout or dance, to use up some energy and tire myself out. I also ended up trying this really mild herbal medicine at one point, which was called 'seremind', I think it helped a little bit. Maybe trying aromatherapy, or essential oils, especially lavender.  I use to say 'mantras' in my head. I would do visualising and externalizing, so imagining my anxiety as an 'energy' I could shake off or breathe out. I also use to externalise it, so I would imagine it as a seperate being, and use to tell it quite literally to 'f*ck off', which may sound strange lol, but it worked for me. Also finding pressure points to ease anxiety, I think the one I used to do was about three fingers below your wrist and lightly massaging it, it use to help me a bit. 

Its cool that you're trying meditation, so something else I really recommend is 'guided sleep meditation', its on youtube and they do a 'talk down' so you gradually release tension from your body and just generally calm down with the words of the video, you don't have to do it in your sleep or anything, but I use to listen to it before I went to sleep while I was laying in bed; if you find the right one they can really help. Also, I wanted to recommend this youtube channel that focuses a lot on dp/dr and anxiety, that I use to watch a lot, his name is 'Jordan Hardgrave' aka 'anxiety ninja'.

I hope some of that may be of help to you. The physical symptoms of anxiety really suck . I used to get pretty frustrated sometimes, simply from being so jumpy and easily startled, and even having shaky hands and all that. Especially the heartbeat though, I went to hospital a couple times in the beginning because I was scared I was having a heart attack, but gradually I learnt to deal with these feelings through these techniques, and importantly just lowering my anxiety overall, and giving my body time and patience to lessen the symptoms of it. 

I hope you are feeling okay today, and hopefully some of these may work for you. 



Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

Hey @wanderingwasp its cool that you've been trying meditation to help with your anxiety throughout the day. What kinda meditation? I find different breathing techniques super helpful Smiley Happy 

Re: TW: Let's talk about Dissociation, Derealisation and Depersonalisation

@wanderingwasp  This is such a great thread! I also used to experience these things. I still have feelings like I'm outside my body which is a bit scary but I've found that mindfulness and grounding techniques help. Some apps I use for meditations are Youper, Insight Timer and Medito.
My sister has non-epileptic seizures and some neurologists believe that they are a form of dissociation. I've tried to do sensory awareness things with her, but when she is focusing on her body, it triggers the seizures.

Here are some other techniques I read about on a website:

- Count backwards from 100 to 0 in sevens, "100, 93, 86, 79" or fours "100, 96, 92 etc"

- Pick up a magazine and start reading it

- Talk to someone

- Try playing a computer game on a mobile phone or some other device

- Try singing a favourite song
- Remind yourself that you are safe
- Feel something rough or textured
- The five things game