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Derealisation and Depersonalisation

Emotional, Physical, and Psychological Effects often associated or accompanying Depersonalisation and Derealisation:

 Many of these bizarre and morbid sensations listed below might be classed as pseudohallucination, that is, they are not concrete. Instead they are attempts to describe inner subjective experiences and therefore have an 'as if' quality. Although strictly speaking some of these experiences lie outside the definitions of derealisation and depersonalisation, they are often described alongside them.

With derealisation, objects can seem somehow diminished or distorted (metamorphopsia). Other metaphorical descriptions of visual experiences include; blurred vision, tunnel/corridor vision, sensitivity to light (photophobia), false changes in lighting conditions, i.e. sensations that the light is fading, the contrast is changing or the hues have shifted slightly.

Voices sound faint or distant, (as though 'filtered' through an auditory 'fog'), or loud and echoing.

Perceived alteration of limb size and shape, often a swelling or thinning can be felt, as can changes in the texture of the extremities, as though they are made of cotton wool, or as if your bones have become thinner or hollow.

Changes in experience of time are common, almost as though there is a delay between an event happening and its perception. Sometimes it feels as though time is standing still, with the sense of future lost.

 Body image
Body doubling or out-of-body feelings can be experienced often as if you are viewing the world from above or behind, or as if your body is misaligned from its normal position, i.e. you might experience a sinking sensation as though your legs are beneath ground level. Actually seeing a double of yourself (autoscopy) is a class of hallucination that is distinct from, although it may rarely accompany, derealisation.

Feelings are dull and blunted and the capacity to experience most emotion, (pleasure, love or hate) is lost (de-affectualisation). Paradoxically this can be intensely frightening. Anhedhonia is also experienced, a hollowness characterised by loss of drive and vitality, personality or power of imagination. These feelings are also characteristics of depression.

If the person has induced derealisation deliberately and in a controlled way, (I.e. through meditation or drug usage), then the experience can be one of detached calmness and enlightenment.

 Other physical sensations
Dizziness, faintness and unsteadiness on the feet are common and are often mistakenly diagnosed as ear infections or cardiac problems. Dry mouth, muscle pain and tension (particularly across neck and shoulders) stooping (difficulty in standing erect), headache, upset stomach and nausea, and loss of appetite are often seen, a result of stress and depression.

 Other mental sensations
Jamais vu... deja vu... sleep paralysis... nightmares... microscopia... metamorphopsia... dysmorphopsy... phobias... depression... anxiety... panic attacks... hypochondrial preoccupation.

 Who experiences these feelings?

As a transient phenomena, to different extents, just about everybody, including healthy adults and children, will encounter these odd feelings. Anyone who is emotionally disturbed, fatigued, frightened or stressed is also prone to derealisation in particular.

 Others who often experience derealisation and depersonalisation include:

 Sufferers of neurotic mental illnesses, such as anxiety, panic-attacks, agoraphobia, phobias, depression, obsessional thinking, compulsive behaviour (OCD).

 Sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, often survivors of major accidents or other trauma, i.e. prisoners of war, test pilots and astronauts, war veterans, people recently bereaved.

 Sufferers of psychotic mental illnesses, such as Schizophrenia and Manic-Depression.

 People who experience an 'aura' before an epileptic fit, reportedly common in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).

 Users of LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), alcohol, cannabis and other hallucinogenic or psycho-active drugs. Abuse of these drugs may lead to Hallucination Persisting Perceptual Disorder, of which derealisation and its co-morbid symptoms can be a component.

 Consumers of many prescription drugs, but mainly antidepressants and painkillers can also experience these sensations.

 Repetition can elicit depersonalisation, for instance; meditation involving repeating a mantra or concentrating on an object, certain kinds of dancing, and even Yoga. Some research conducted into depersonalisation has apparently used these activities to cue episodes of derealisation. Consequently, people who practice repetitive rituals and meditation in order to achieve 'enlightenment' or 'cosmic ecstasy', may actually be triggering depersonalisation as opposed to transcending an Earthly paradise.

 Similarly, sleep or sensory deprivation can lead to depersonalisation, and is it also a common component of near death and out-of-body experiences.



Disclaimer:  The information contained in this website was not compiled by a doctor or anyone with medical training. The advice contained herein should not be substituted for the advice of a physician who is well-informed in the subject matter discussed. Before making any decisions about your health or treatment you should always confer with your physician and it is always assumed that you will do so.

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Last updated 21 July 2020