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Panic Attack and Not Feeling Real (Depersonalization & Derealization)

Understanding Depersonalization & Derealization

Depersonalization / Derealization is a set of symptoms rooted in anxiety, and often associated with panic attacks. People who suffer from this condition feel as if they are not connected to their body or environment (derealization), or that they do not know who they are (depersonalization). It can be an intensely frightening feeling, but it is important to remember that these feelings are associated with anxiety and panic, rather than a mental illness.

What is Depersonalization?

Depersonalization is a feeling of detachment from one’s self, as if the individual is observing themselves from afar. It can be accompanied by a sense that memories are not real or that life lacks meaning and purpose. This symptom may also manifest as feeling emotionally numb, being unable to feel any emotions, or an intense disconnection from physical sensations in the body.

What is Derealization?

Derealization is a similar symptom but with regards to one’s environment; it involves a feeling of detachment from the environment and people around them. The individual may feel like they are living in a dream-like state where their surroundings seem surreal, unfamiliar, or distorted in some way. Other symptoms of this include feeling distant or removed from events that are happening, or even having difficulty recognizing familiar faces and places.

Who gets Depersonalization & Derealization?

Depersonalization and derealization are both symptoms of anxiety, and can often be experienced together. It is more common in those who have a history of intense or prolonged stress or trauma, though anyone with an anxiety disorder may experience these symptoms. Furthermore, people with panic disorders are more likely to experience these symptoms as part of a panic attack.

Understanding Depersonalization & Derealization is essential to understanding the connection between anxiety and certain mental health issues. It is important to note that these feelings are not indicative of any form of mental illness, but rather a symptom of extreme stress or anxiety. If you or someone you know is suffering from these symptoms, it is best to seek treatment from a trained mental health provider.

Panic Cycle and Depersonalization and Derealization

Depersonalization and derealization are a normal part of the panic cycle, which is the physical experience of anxiety. It starts with anticipatory anxiety, which is when a person begins to worry about something that might happen in the future (the feeling of depersonalization for example). This leads to an increase in physiological arousal, which then can actually result in depersonalization or derealization being experienced. These symptoms can often make the individual more anxious, initiating a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape from without proper treatment.

Treating Depersonalization & Derealization

The good news is that Depersonalization / Derealization is treatable. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in helping individuals retrain unhelpful thinking patterns and manage their anxiety, and eventually overcome their feelings of depersonalization/derealization. CBT aims to equip individuals with the skills to identify what triggers their anxiety and find ways to cope with it. It can also help individuals gain a better understanding of the panic cycle, which is essential in addressing depersonalization/derealization symptoms. Additionally, mindfulness-based skills such as mental noting have been found to be effective in managing stress and changing the patterns of anxiety contributing to depersonalization / derealization.

Depersonalization & Derealization are symptoms of anxiety, but they do not indicate any form of mental illness; treatment is available and should be sought if these symptoms become overwhelming or difficult to manage on your own. If you think that you or someone you know may benefit from evidence-based CBT, GroundWork Counseling can help. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can assist you in managing your anxiety symptoms.

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