If you have never heard of derealisation or depersonalisation it is no surprise. Of all the mental health issues it is one of the more rare afflictions. It is estimated that depression and anxiety affect around 1 in 4 people in the UK, whereas derealisation is estimated to affect as few as 1 in 50 people and most cases go undiagnosed.
This is the feeling that comes as part of derealisation. It is a feeling that most have experienced. A feeling that the world that we live in isn’t real. Sometimes it can be quite cool to “zone out” and imagine that this whole world is a fictional construct. But there is a big difference between fleeting thoughts and a constant feeling that reality isn’t real!
Derealisation from a personal perspective
Described by a sufferer of the condition, she likened it to constantly feeling like you are in a dream. She claims that nothing feels like it is real which can make everything seem pointless. Can you imagine that? The disconnect can have a profound effect on sufferers lives. Imagine feeling that way. What would be the point of going to work if nothing was real? This also has a dramatic effect on sufferers abilities to form meaningful relationships. It can also have a severe effect on your memory.
Depersonalisation from a personal perspective
This is a mental disconnect with your own body. It can be terribly frightening and disconcerting. One sufferer describes it as looking down at your hands and not feeling like they belong to you. You can also feel like your soul does not belong in your body. This is part of the reason that many sufferers feel suicidal.
What the medical professionals say
Dissociation is like our brains parachute. Pulling us away from negative feelings. It is nearly always as a result of trauma and it kind of an extreme form of repression. Rather than our brain burying the hurtful feelings, it tries to separate from the painful feelings in a more dramatic and pronounced way. Derealisation is a disconnect from your environment whereas as depersonalisation is a disconnect from your physical self. All are rooted in similar causes.
As we touched upon these conditions are often caused by trauma. However, this doesn’t mean that a sufferer would have to have been through a car crash or been assaulted to be a sufferer. Quite often it can be an amalgamation of minor traumas that your adult self might look at and dream irrelevant. For example, the time an adult spanked you for making too much noise, or something innocuous like that. While these don’t seem like a big deal to the adult version of you it was enough for the child version to develop a coping mechanism.
As stated the condition often goes undiagnosed and as with a lot of mental health conditions people aren’t always keen to come forward. Chester Bennington the lead singer of Linkin Park was allegedly a sufferer and this can be seen in the lyrics to some of his more iconic songs. The same can be said of Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz who is refreshingly open about his condition.
Generally, antidepressants aren’t going to cut it here. They can cause blunting and often the highs and lows of life help a person to feel real. There has been a lot of success using a form of treatment called Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS involves using magnetic forces to increase blood flow, oxygen levels around the brain. It is complex but has shown up to a 50% success rate for people with the condition.