Unreality / Depersonalization, Derealization
There is a symptom not often mentioned in panic attack literature that I would like to discuss. It is the sensation of unreality, this sensation is called depersonalization by psychologists. Many people who experience panic attacks and anxiety attacks become distressed by this sensation and feel they may be losing their mind.
People who experience panic attacks report feeling disconnected from their world, or having a sensation of unreality. The sensation is described as if the world has become nothing more than a projection of a film. This sensation is quite distressing as it often leads to the individual believing that some permanent damage has been done to their brain, causing these sensations.
A typical manifestation of this depersonalization is when the individual may be having a conversation with someone and suddenly feels alarmingly isolated and removed from the situation. Once the sensation arises it can be so impactful that it takes days to leave the eerie feeling behind and stop thinking about it.
The sensation is caused by delayed perception. While under constant stress or anxiety there is a build up of stress chemicals in your system that causes a delayed response in the transmission of information between neurotransmitter sites in your body. This slight delay between experience and thought can create a momentary sensation of unreality. The same effects are experienced under the influence of marijuana but people do not react with fear in this situation because they are aware it is the drug causing the sensation; it is when the sensation arrives while you are doing your tax returns that things feel a little scary!
I mention depersonalization because the condition is not often spoken about, and to reassure those of you who may have experienced this sensation, that it is only a side-effect of excessive anxiety and will pass as soon as the body learns to relax. Once the body returns to a normal level of relaxation it then has the opportunity to dispel some excess chemicals.
It is very easy to start imagining all the terrible mental illnesses that this could be but don’t worry you haven’t caused any damage to yourself you will return to the person you were before depersonalization crept in. You will have to trust me on that.
The quickest way out of this disconnected feeling is to really accept it for the time being and have faith that it will pass shortly. Shrug your shoulders and relax into it. You can take this relaxed attitude to it because you know that you will return to normal when you move out of this period of anxiety. It is a phase you are moving through so be patient with yourself while you are in it.
What really moves people out of this sensation quickest is adopting an attitude that all is well. And it is. These unusual sensations of depersonalization are just a nuisance, but it will pass. Not feeling connected to yourself in this manner is solely due to the anxiety in your system and it is then reinforced by your constant checking to see how you are feeling. It is like you are over analysing yourself all the time and that can make you feel even more strange. I appreciate how uncomfortable it can feel but don’t worry about it, it will leave.
Don’t let the thoughts sucker you into thinking you are alone
and stuck with this feeling of depersonalization all your life. Those thoughts are not valid. The more you can flow along with it and not react the more quickly you will return to feeling more yourself. It takes a little practise but that change in attitude will make a big difference for you.
You will look back in the very near future and wonder what all the fuss was about and that anxious person will seem like the stranger.
Anther page on this site you may find helpful if you have experienced any degree of ‘Unreality’ is Anxious Thinking.