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Depersonalisation is a personal feeling of unreality, a subjective feeling of being disassociated from the world. Often described as a feeling of being spaced or feeling in a dreamlike state, even time can appear to slow down and movement of events appear in slow motion.  However, during the experience, one's testing of reality represents normality as it is not a psychotic occurrence. Yet despite this awareness, depersonalisation can be a frightening and extremely distressing experience as the sufferer often believes the feeling will be eternal or he/she is going insane. 

Although not physically harmful or painful, it is the meaning of the experience attached to the sensations which evokes fear in the person. These psychological symptoms often occur when someone is suffering from stress and anxiety as well as being a symptom of a panic attack. To be classed as a depersonalisation disorder, the symptoms above emerge exclusively as opposed to presenting themselves in conjunction with other symptoms such as those present in post traumatic stress disorder, a panic attack, a medical condition or any substance abuse.


While depersonalisation is feeling of unreality relating to one's own existence, derealisation is a sense of unreality concerning the outside world. However, the two do seem to present themselves in unison compelling the person to question if it is him or herself who is unreal or the actual world. Sufferers of derealisation relate to looking at the world through a clouded lens. Experiencing a feeling of detachment from the environment, the person feels the world is unfamiliar or people are like robots.

Quotes from an actual client (name change to maintain anonymity) disclosed with client's permission:

Perception of husband:

"It's like I don't know him. I recognise him but it's like he's not real, it's hard to explain but it feels like he looks like David but there is no real David."

Perception of familiarity:

"It's like everything is weird and pointless. Everything that I know or am familiar with like my house or bedroom seems different and strange. It's like I'm in a bubble and nothing is real."

Although depersonalisation and derealisation can evoke tremendous distress, it is the meaning of the experience that the person attaches to the feeling which is representative of the true fear factor. In fact these two sensations are extremely similar to feelings of jetlag with the difference being that the person attaches no sinister meaning to jetlag. Again, this is a treatable disorder and an integrative approach is an excellent method for managing symptoms and reducing stress.

Anxiety Therapist