Everything seems unreal
My Self has disappeared
I feel like a robot
My thoughts seem strange
My mind feels detached from my body
The world seems foreign and unfamiliar
I can’t feel anything
My head feels hollow
I think I’m going crazy
My body seems weird
I don’t recognize myself in the mirror
I am afraid of my own existence
I feel like I’m watching myself in a movie
No one senses anything different
Everyone says it’s in my head
I can’t stop thinking…
What’s Wrong with Me?
Chances are good that at some point in life, one of the statements above applied to you. A sense of detachment from reality and a fleeting suspicion that you’re going crazy are common experiences, often as a reaction to stress or a traumatic experience. But these troubling statements have one thing in common—They are all symptoms of Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder (DDD).
Theoretically, Depersonalization is one of the mind’s built-in defense systems gone awry. It’s normal to feel detached, or view yourself from outside the body following a car crash, or unexpected death of a loved one. But those sensations should pass. When they don’t, or when they appear for known or unknown reasons, they are symptomatic of DDD.
Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder, often referred to as DPD, or DPAFU (depersonalization and feelings of unreality) is a unique syndrome characterized by an overwhelming sense of unreality and altered perceptions of the inner and outer worlds. Depersonalization is defined by a change in your inner world —the act of thinking and the very nature of existence seem somehow foreign or unfamiliar. Derealization involves this sense of unfamiliarity in respect to the world outside yourself. In both manifestations of DDD, “reality testing remains in tact.” That is, you are acutely aware that something is wrong, and different from your former, and expected sense of self.
As stated at the outset, Depersonalization-Derealization is thought to be a dysfunction of a normal fight or flight mechanism, designed to distance the psyche from overwhelming circumstances. Unlike Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), DDD can be triggered by lower level, ongoing stresses, or by a variety of substances, including marijuana, hashish, ecstasy, LSD or Salvia. People who experience DDD may well have a genetic predisposition to the disorder, though it can arise spontaneously in some individuals without any identifiable trigger at all.
Many patients experience anxiety or panic attacks within their DDD experience. In such cases, a panic attack or series of attacks may be followed by periods of depersonalization in which the anxiety subsides. Often this happens after smoking pot. Still, many people experience chronic symptoms of depersonalization with no anxiety whatsoever.
Surprisingly, depersonalized individuals can be highly functioning in their professional lives. Often, friends and family never know that anything is wrong, while patients suffer in silence.
DDD is often misdiagnosed. Psychiatrists and psychologists often mistake its symptoms for atypical depression, bi-polar disorder, panic, or anxiety disorder. Sometimes a patient must take the initiative to educate family members and ask their doctor to familiarize his or her self with the clinical descriptions, as well as the newest medical literature on the subject. Most health professionals are flexible and willing to work with you towards learning more about this neglected disorder and the best course of action, in light of your specific symptoms.