Ask The Therapist: “I am suffering with Depersonalisation and Derealisation Disorder..”

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I am a 20year-old university student from Lahore. I am suffering with Depersonalisation and Derealization Disorder. It has been around 1.5 months since this condition and I have trouble connecting with reality. I have existential crisis and sometimes I don’t feel human. I get severe anxiety because I don’t feel anything is real. I don’t know how to tackle this situation. I feel hopeless. Please help!

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

Experiencing this condition can be really distressing, especially because it’s impacting your ability to connect with yourself and your experiences. The Depersonalization/Derealization disorder can be the result of several factors, and in a lot of cases, it is temporary. However, if you feel that it is persistent, there are ways to go about diagnosis and treatment. Let’s dive into this a little bit further.

What is Depersonalization/Derealization?

It falls under the category of dissociative disorders, which indicates that a person has become disconnected from their thoughts, feelings, body and environment. They are, however, still in touch with their reality and are fully aware that what they’re experiencing is out of the realm of their what they would consider “normal”. It can deeply impact one’s sense of awareness, consciousness and memory. This condition is often a response to severe trauma, which can be caused by:

Abuse
Life-threatening event
Death of a loved one
Family history of mental illness

There might be other causes which include but are not limited to: sleep deprivation, hallucinogenic drugs or high levels of stress.

Diagnosis/Treatment 

It’s crucial to get a psychiatric consultation on this, and undergo the proper testing protocol to ensure that they are no underlying medical conditions, and making sure the criteria for the disorder are met.

While there is no medication for the Depersonalization/Derealisation Disorder, you can work on treating it through other avenues:

Psychotherapy: there are several approaches that come under the umbrella of talk therapy – research indicates that CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) would be an effective method of treatment. You could also consider EMDR(Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) – this is especially effective when treating conditions associated with trauma such as PTSD and C-PTSD. DBT (Dialectal Behavioral Therapy) is another approach based off of CBT, but is specifically designed for those who experience emotions intensely, and could help in terms of anxiety management and coping with difficult feelings. These approaches are there to help in terms of learning ways to cope, as well as being able to recognize triggers and grounding yourself.
Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is another approach that aims to incorporate deep relaxation techniques, while also bringing in a sense of awareness and mindfulness. A practitioner of hypnotherapy would be able to help explore your consciousness, and perhaps even tap into the very root of your condition.

Medication: if the symptoms of the condition are too overwhelming, you can also opt for medication to help with symptom management. This would, again, would require a consultation with your psychiatrist, who would be able to recommend a treatment plan in terms of what kind of medicine, dosage and how long you’ll be taking it for.

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Anon, I know you must feel really helpless and scared right now, and that’s okay. Try the treatment methods laid out in this article, and be as easy on yourself as you can during this time. Get yourself the help that you need. I wish you all the best on your journey towards healing and grounding. All the best!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or therapy.

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