In your own words, what is depersonalisation disorder?
Depersonalisation disorder is essentially a feeling of being detached from reality and my body. A sense of unruliness and lack of ability to feel emotion. It is a sort of emotional numbness, arising feelings of being estranged from my self. Almost like I am outside of my body and do not have a connection to it.
What does it feel like?
It is sort of like I am watching myself through another persons eyes. As if I were in a movie or a film. It is really strange because I do not feel like myself and I become numb to any emotion. I am not happy nor sad; literally nothingness. I think the fact that it is so unusual scared me a lot. I felt like I was the only one and there was nothing I could do about it. I think the thing that helps the most has been gaining clarity over it and being clear in my mind about what it is. Knowing that it will go away is also really helpful. These are things I think about when it happens, to reassure myself that I am not going crazy and that it will pass.
When would you say this occurs in your life?
I often experience depersonalisation when I am having high levels of anxiety. It sometimes occurs without reason and on other occasions it can happen when I am stressed. Most of the time it is random when my anxiety is at its peak. For example, when I have panic attacks I will often feel symptoms for about a week after.
When did you realise that it was a mental health disorder? What did you do about it?
I started to feel spells of depersonalisation about three years ago. I have always had bad anxiety attacks and used to get panic attacks as a child. I started to notice it more and more and felt that it was not normal, so I decided to google my symptoms. I thought I was the only one but I read up on loads of experiences from other people that made me feel less alone. I then went to my General Practitioner (the community doctor that is provided through the British national health care system, NHS) after a few times of experiencing this as it was starting to affect my relationships and everyday life. I then went to a therapist. I have also learnt to deal with it myself and have a few coping mechanisms.
What advice would you give people with depersonalisation?
I would try to relax and accept the fact that sometimes you will feel this way. It is hard to say because everyone is different and everybody has their own symptoms and experiences. I would for sure go to see a therapist, one that has the ability to help with these issues. Even looking online for support helps a great deal. (Captain Hale resources provide collaborations with charities and health experts, to help find someone please check our resources page).