Understanding and Overcoming Derealization Symptoms: A Comprehensive Guide

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Published Date|
May 18, 2024

Understanding and Overcoming Derealization Symptoms: A Comprehensive Guide

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." - Albert Einstein.

What would you do if one day the world you live in no longer looked the same? You feel anxious, disconnected, and lonely, even though you might be surrounded by your friends and loved ones. Many experience the overwhelming feeling of solitude and distortion of the senses. Yet sadly, they often fail to recognize.

Derealization is a psychological disorder that can significantly alter a person's perspective of reality, which leads to feelings of detachment and unreality. While it can be a difficult experience, knowing the derealization symptoms and practicing good coping skills may assist people in re-establishing a sense of connection and gaining stability in their lives. 

In this detailed guide by our experts, we will explore the complexities, the underlying reasons, common indicators and derealization symptoms, and practical ways for dealing with the repercussions. We at KMA Therapy hope that by shining light on this often overlooked condition, we can help people fight their own derealization experiences with courage and self-awareness. 

What is Derealization Disorder?

Simply put, derealization disorder is a dissociative experience. It starts with simple feelings of detachment from one's surroundings as if the world were unreal or distorted. Derealization can occur in a variety of ways, ranging from brief periods of mild detachment to long-lasting feelings of loneliness. 

A simple test to identify if an individual suffers from derealization is to ask them to describe their surroundings. If you feel like your environment is strange, dreamy, or disfigured, with objects, people, and circumstances appearing strange or made up, it might be time to contact a professional therapist at KMA. While derealization is usually brief and harmless, recurrent or prolonged episodes can have a serious impact on a person's overall health and normal daily activities.

5 Key Derealization Symptoms You Should Not Ignore!

There’s no doubt that diagnosing a proper mental illness will require a professional or an expert. But you can get an initial idea of how severe your condition is or whether you have it in the first place by analyzing the signs mentioned below:

Reality Doesn't Feel Real

One of the key derealization symptoms is a constant feeling of illusion or detachment from the world around you. Imagine as though you are viewing the world through a fog or veil, with things and other people seeming distant or strange. This continuous sense of isolation can be stressful and distracting, causing increased anxiety and trouble completing daily tasks.

Feeling Emotionally Blank

Derealization disorder is frequently accompanied by sensations of unreality, as well as emotional coldness or detachment. Many may also struggle to connect with and feel their emotions in a meaningful way. Despite logically understanding that particular events or situations should trigger an emotional reaction, you may struggle to connect with such emotions physiologically. This emotional detachment may break down your relationships and interfere with interaction with others, resulting in feelings of exclusion and sadness. 

Time Doesn't Make Sense

If you are experiencing confusion with a distorted sense of time, it may be a result of the derealization disorder. People often perceive time as moving at a slower or accelerated speed, which makes it hard to measure time accurately. Hours may go by without a clear sense of how much time has passed, and tasks that once seemed normal may suddenly seem exhausting. This twisted sense of time can cause disturbances to regular schedules and impact effective time management, ultimately leading to an increased amount of stress and annoyance.

Feeling Sensory Overload

If you are going through derealization, you might become more sensitive to light, sound, or touch. Once-tolerable everyday experiences can become overpowering or unpleasant at any time, causing avoidance behaviors and a lack of social engagement. This increased sensitivity can have a negative impact on your day-to-day activities and general quality of life, worsening anxiety and enhancing derealization symptoms.

Brain Not Working Right

Brain fog and cognitive impairment frequently co-occur with derealization disorder, making it hard for people to focus or think clearly. You may find it difficult to remember information or make judgments, and even simple thinking tasks may feel difficult. Academic and professional performance may be affected by this impairment of cognition, which may contribute to feelings of hopelessness and unhappiness.

Understanding the Underlying Causes

Although the exact cause of derealization is still unknown, the combination of biological, psychological, and environmental variables is believed to be responsible. Some factors may include: 

  • Trauma: For people who have endured significant or repeated trauma, derealization disorder may serve as a coping strategy for managing stress or trauma
  • Anxiety and Panic Disorders: Anxiety and panic attacks are frequently accompanied by derealization. It may be set about by extreme stress or terror and indicates a sign of these disorders.
  • Depersonalization Disorder: When someone has depersonalization disorder, they frequently experience derealization, a feeling of disconnection from both themselves and the outside world.
  • Substance Use: Derealization disorder can also be a side effect of using some drugs, including cannabis, hallucinogens, and dissociatives. Withdrawal from specific substances may also result in derealization.
  • Mental Health Conditions: It has been linked to a number of mental health issues, such as borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.
  • Medical Conditions: Derealization is a symptom of a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, migraines, brain trauma, and vestibular disorders.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Dreams of derealization disorder may result from sleep deprivation or irregular sleep cycles.
  • Stress and Overwhelm: Derealization experiences may be worsened by extreme stress, whether it comes from relationships, the workplace, or other life events.

Strategies for Overcoming Derealization Symptoms

Derealization disorder leaves you with a feeling of dread and anxiety. Therefore, we at KMA Therapy believe that this is an issue you might have to face head-on. Although derealization symptoms might seem overwhelming, here are some strategies to help manage and overcome them:

Grounding Techniques:

Grounding practices help tackle feelings of unreality and become more focused on the present. Engaging in techniques that are designed to help you focus on the moment at hand, such as gradual relaxation of muscles, taking deep breaths, or imagery guidance. Furthermore, to familiarize yourself with your physical surroundings, use sensory grounding techniques, including concentrating on your touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound senses.

Emotional Exploration:

You can explore these methods for processing emotional events and getting back to a connection with your feelings. Start by keeping a journal. This offers a safe space for you to reflect and express your emotions, ideas, and experiences. Furthermore, painting, drawing, or playing music are examples of artistic therapy that can help you discover your sense of emotion and use your imagination. To develop a deeper understanding and connection, try talking to discuss your feelings and experiences of derealization disorder with a therapist, family member, or trusted friend.

Time Management Strategies:

Creating routines and structure in your everyday life can help you feel less disoriented and manage how you view time. You could use tools like planners, calendars, or electronic reminders to keep track of assignments and appointments. Split tasks that are more complicated into smaller, more achievable ones to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Remember, making self-care habits at the top of your list should be a must. These include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising. Such habits are crucial for helping you manage your time and cognitive performance. 

Sensory Regulation:

One of the best ways to cope with derealization symptoms is to reduce the number of sensory stimuli in your surroundings and add peaceful things to create a relaxing atmosphere. Try different combinations of lighting, sound, texture, and temperature to create a comfortable and relaxing environment that appeals to the senses. Things that might help you lower your stress level and put you at ease may include techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or aromatherapy.

Cognitive Enhancement Activities:

Working to improve your thinking skills and overcome brain fog caused by the derealization disorder can be done by taking part in mental exercises and activities. This may include games, puzzles, and apps for brain training, which may help improve your ability for memory, focus, and problem-solving. Participating in mindfulness meditation to strengthen focus and attention will also help you with memory and mental clarity. Make sure you are giving self-care routines like getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising a lot of attention. These are crucial for maintaining your overall health and cognitive function and coping with the derealization symptoms.

The Takeaway

Although derealization disorder can have a significant negative influence on a person's quality of life, with the correct resources and techniques, you can take back control and manage its symptoms effectively. You can recover a sense of stability and connection in your life by understanding the derealization symptoms and using coping mechanisms such as emotional exploration, grounding exercises, time management skills, sensory modulation, and cognitive enhancing exercises. People can successfully pass through their experiences of derealization and come out stronger on the other side if they have the right tools, resources, and support.

What Should You Do Next?

"You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, and a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle." - Julian Seifter.

After reading this article, you now know what derealization disorder is, its causes, and how you can overcome it. 

We at KMA have been supporting and empowering our clients in their mental health journey for over a decade. We offer therapy at five convenient locations across Toronto: Yonge and Eglinton, King West, Yorkville, Liberty Village, and Yonge and Sheppard, and we offer virtual counseling sessions for anyone in Ontario.

Register online to learn more about our online anxiety counseling or download our Therapy 101 Guide to explore how therapy can work for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How can I support a loved one experiencing derealization?

If you have a loved one experiencing derealization disorder, it is essential to offer them empathy, understanding, and support. Offer them a nonjudgmental space to share their experiences and thoughts, and encourage them to get professional assistance. Educate yourself about derealization so that you can help and be patient with them as they work their way through the recovery process.

Q2. Is it possible to fully recover from derealization?

Even though derealization disorder can be a difficult experience, many people can make great progress and have happy, meaningful lives if they receive the right attention, support, and self-care. Every individual's journey toward recovery from derealization is different, and there may be ups and downs along the way. It is possible to overcome derealization and regain a sense of stability and connection in life with determination, courage, and support. 

Q3. What should I do if my derealization symptoms worsen or become overwhelming?

If your derealization symptoms worsen or become overwhelming, it is crucial to seek immediate support from a mental health professional or crisis helpline. You are not alone, and help is available 24/7. Do not hesitate to reach out for assistance and guidance during difficult times.

Q4. How does therapy at KMA Therapy work?

Therapy at KMA Therapy starts with an initial consultation to determine the client's requirements and objectives. To address issues and build strength and personal development, therapists study your derealization symptoms and use evidence-based techniques such as mindfulness and CBT. Sessions are customized for each person and offer a private setting for support and discussion. For flexibility, clients can choose between in-person and remote sessions. The client-centered method's focus on multicultural sensitivity and holistic support services is essential for developing overall well-being. KMA Therapy's treatment equips patients to overcome challenges, accomplish their objectives, and take back control of their lives.

Q5. How can I book an appointment for therapy at KMA?

To book an appointment you just need to fill out our web form or call us at 416-487-6288!

We are located at five locations in Toronto:

  • Yonge & Eglinton- 120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 304, Toronto, Ontario M4P 1E2
  • King West- 500 King Street West, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5V 1L8
  • Liberty Village- 60 Atlantic Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M6K 1X9
  • Yorkville- 2 Bloor Street West, 19th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2B6
  • Yonge & Sheppard- 4711 Yonge St, 10th Floor, Toronto, ON M2N 6K8

Author |
Haseena Baig
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