How Long Does Depersonalization Last?

In this blog post, we will answer the question, “how long does depersonalization last?” We will understand more about the condition. We will then find out if there is hope and if the state is permanent. Finally, we will outline a few tips for managing depersonalization.

How Long Does Depersonalization Last?

Depersonalization episodes may last hours, months, or even years. Some may experience episodes that become feelings of depersonalization, which may get worse or better periodically. Typically, it is nearly impossible to say how long it will last, and not much control can be exerted over its duration.

Initially, people’s reaction to this news is anger or a sense of hopelessness. They assume it is going to be permanent, and their lives are ruined. However, people must understand that the disorder’s course is not entirely under one’s control, just how the onset was not. Therefore, worrying about the duration would be unnecessary.

First, let us understand a bit more about depersonalization.

Depersonalization Symptoms

Following is a list of the symptoms of depersonalization:

  • A feeling of observing one’s body from the outside – a detached feeling; 
  • A sense of observing one’s thoughts and feelings from the outside, sometimes looking at oneself from above;
  • Numbness of the mind and body – feeling like senses are shut down; 
  • No sense of control over what one says or does – robot-like feeling;
  • A sense of distortion of the body (e.g., body part feels enlarged or shrunken);
  • A sense of no emotion concerning memories; and
  • Feeling like one’s memories is not theirs.

Recurrent depersonalization episodes cause personal distress. It also affects daily functioning both at work and at home. Typically, during these episodes, you know that such detachment is a feeling and is not the reality. 

You may struggle to put into words what they are feeling and experiencing. You may also become preoccupied with reassuring yourself that you exist and determining what is real and not. All of these factors may make you feel like you are losing control.

It is common for the symptoms to begin around teenage years to early adulthood. Further, this disorder rarely occurs in children and the elderly. 

Causes of Depersonalization Disorder

There is not much literature on the causes of depersonalization disorder. However, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors are thought to influence. 

Stress, as seen in other dissociative disorders, triggers depersonalization disorder. This stress could be induced by trauma, including war, violence, abuse, and disasters. Such incidents may either be experienced directly or vicariously. 

Is There Hope?

Yes, there is hope. Although there is no knowledge of how long the condition will last, there are a couple of things you can do, such as:

  • Disallow depersonalization disorder from coming in the way of our lives; and
  • Increase the speed of the exit of the disorder.

The best way to cope with the condition is to come to terms with these feelings and act in an almost indifferent manner. Indeed these recommendations are easier said than done, but it is the most useful technique to get over it. 

To elaborate, suppose you worry about the disorder, how it affects you, and how long it will last. You would end up getting stressed unnecessarily. What is perpetuating the condition is this stress.

Therefore, if you come to terms with the disorder and try to be indifferent towards it by choosing to live life, as usual, you would allow yourself to get the much needed physical and mental break. This relaxation enables healing to take place.

Is Depersonalization Permanent?

No, depersonalization is not permanent. There is a popular misconception that depersonalization can be endless with no means of escape. 

Although many people support this hypothesis on depersonalization forums superficially, when you pause and investigate the situation, you understand what is happening.

People with depersonalization lasting several years allow it to go on for several reasons:

  • There is unresolved trauma underlying the disorder. Some might be trauma survivors, and there are deep-rooted issues with which they have not come to terms. Processing these feelings with the help of a mental health professional in a safe environment could allow the resolution of the disorder;
  • They are under perpetual stress owing to the constant preoccupation with the disorder. Such a maladaptive feedback loop could be resolved by practicing acceptance.
  • Not seeking timely and appropriate intervention could make people feel hopeless and demotivated, which could even lead to depression. This feeling could bring their life to a standstill and prohibit them from going about everyday responsibilities, causing despair. Although these behaviors are tolerable for a short duration, it is not advisable for it to become the norm. 

Tips for Managing Depersonalization

Following is a list of ways to help you from constantly worrying about depersonalization: At this point, if you are worried about your DP/DR lasting forever, then follow this action plan:

  • Try not to think about how long depersonalization will last. Remind yourself that it is not directly under your control;
  • Instead of ruminating, work on coming to terms with the associated symptoms and feelings. Doing so may be weird and uncomfortable initially, but it will get more comfortable with time.
  • Recognize any stressors or traumatic incidents in your life. Try asking yourself, “what other parts of my life besides the depersonalization are in imbalance?”;
  • Taking therapeutic help is highly recommended; and
  • You have to attempt leading life as you usually do to achieve normalcy again. Therefore, try to engage in daily life in whatever way you can.

Keeping the above points in mind, here is a list of tips to do every day while on your road to healing:

Read Out Loud

To battle intrusive thoughts, reading aloud is ideal. One study found that reading aloud makes use of various mental strategies. These strategies include identification of words, deciphering their meaning, and enunciating. Such cognitive processes keep your mind engaged as it requires intense focus and helps reduce the associated anxiety. 

Listen to Audio Files 

Listening to podcasts and music would ease feelings of anxiety and depersonalization. Therefore, when you have some free time, listen to music or podcasts. Doing this would help keep yourself occupied.

Sleep and Wake Up Early

Having a healthy sleeping habit is one of the essential things to recover from depersonalization. Low sleep quality and nightmares are predominantly associated with depersonalization. An effective way of dealing with this difficulty is to wake up early. 

Cut out Caffeine 

Caffeine-packed beverages such as coffee and carbonated drinks can elevate feelings of anxiety and depersonalization. Coffee has a half-life of around five hours, so its consumption in the latter part of the day can affect your sleep cycle. It also increases heart rate and blood pressure. Moreover, you may feel fatigued once the caffeine wears off. 

For those who love coffee, they can resume consumption post-recovery. Until then, it is recommended to avoid caffeine for the body and mind to stay as relaxed as possible. 

Do Not Consume Drugs

Many people are leaning toward the use of marijuana as a means of unwinding and relaxing. Such usage has increased with the legalization of the drug in many places. However, it is to be avoided for people with anxiety. Misinformed use of marijuana can cause paranoia, hallucinations, palpitations, disorientation, and worsens depersonalization symptoms. 

Marijuana is known to be one of the most prevalent triggers for depersonalization, and its usage to alleviate the disorder would only worsen the symptoms.

Get a Handle on Your Guilt

Guilt can make the situation much worse. If the depersonalization was self-inflicted (e.g., through cannabis or other drugs), its shame is harmful.

There may be a difference between how you feel if the onset of the disorder was unexpected, and if you brought it onto yourself. However, the guilt and fear that is associated with the latter prolong the period. In reality, the condition is an anxiety-provoking one which most people face in their lives, regardless of the reason, and one that fades in a few minutes. 

Such guilt, coupled with excessive research on forums, is the worst for your anxiety about the false belief that the disorder is permanent and here to stay.

Anxiety, coupled with depersonalization, could cause a lack of motivation. However, do not stay in bed as it can trigger negative thoughts. Take a shower, eat, and exercise. Getting through the day will eventually tire the body and aid in sleeping earlier at night. 

If you start feeling tired in the evening, go to sleep and not stay up for whatever reason. Doing so for a while will help reset the biological clock, eventually reducing anxiety and alleviating depersonalization.

Avoid Overreacting

People with any anxiety disorder commonly overreact to both good days and bad days. For example, they get disappointed when the anxiety worsens and over-excited when it lessens. It is vital to have a sense of indifference during both times. 

Practicing this lets your brain register that the most helpful way to deal with depersonalization is to come to terms with its feelings and symptoms and not react to it.

Socialize  

Despite being challenging to step out, spend time with closed ones. People with depersonalization may have trouble focusing on the conversations, which increases their anxiety. It may initially be scary, but with time, it becomes easier to engage in discussions. 

Until that happens, do not avoid time with friends and family. Doing so is also beneficial to distract yourself from anxious thoughts and be occupied with constructive ones. 

Pursue Your Interests and Hobbies

It is counterproductive to research more about the disorder and be preoccupied with its associated feelings and symptoms. Instead, focus more on engaging in activities that bring you joy. Pursue your interests and hobbies such as exercising, playing an instrument, drawing, learning a new language. 

Engaging in such activities would help direct attention from anxious thoughts and depersonalization feelings.

Engage in Activities

Stepping out when you have depersonalization can be a scary feat as it increases anxiety and depersonalization feelings. Remind yourself that you are not under any threat, and it is merely a sensation. 

It is crucial to engage in activities. Despite the anxiety, it helps your brain understand that it is okay, and you can complete the job safely and successfully when you do it. This activity is the underlying process of Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, which is the most common treatment for anxiety-related disorders.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we answered the question, “how long does depersonalization last?” We understood more about the condition. We got to know that there is hope and that the state is not permanent. Finally, we gained insight into the management of depersonalization.

Frequently Asked Questions: How Long Does Depersonalization Last?

For how long does derealization last?

Derealization can last anywhere between a few minutes to a half-hour. Occasionally, these symptoms can last for hours or even weeks.

Is there a way to relieve depersonalization?

Yes, there are a few suggested ways to relieve depersonalization, including:

  • Read out loud;
  • Listen to audio files;
  • Do not consume drugs;
  • Get a handle on your guilt;
  • Avoid overreacting;
  • Socialize;
  • Pursue interests and hobbies; and
  • Engage in activities.

What are the triggers of derealization?

Extreme stress, severe depression, anxiety, and the use of recreational drugs are triggers of derealization. Stress can result from breakups, divorce, or work pressures.

Is there a way to find out if you are dissociating?

Yes, there is a way to find out if you are dissociating. Dissociation may manifest as:

  • Daydreaming;
  • zoning out;
  • Eyes glazed over;
  • Different behaviors, gestures, and voice tone;
  • Radical shifts in emotions or responses to an event.

Is depersonalization related to schizophrenia?

No depersonalization is not related to schizophrenia. However, there are commonalities between the two disorders, such as hallucinations, delusions, phobias, and severe anxiety.

What Causes Depersonalization or Derealization?

Brief episodes of depersonalization or derealization can occur due to factors such as illness, exhaustion, or as a side effect of medications and even alcohol consumption. Heightened states of stress and fear may also trigger episodes. If the episodes persist or happen often, this may be an indication of the presence of a psychological condition known as a dissociative disorder.

Dissociative disorders disconnect an individual from their surroundings, memories, actions, and, in some cases, their identity. They usually develop as a person’s way of coping with trauma and provide an escape from reality. This condition happens most often in children who have experienced long-term abuse or continued exposure to trauma. 

Because behavior is learned from a young age, children who develop dissociative disorders may continue to use the same coping mechanism in response to events that cause severe emotional or stressful situations as they grow older. This has a profound effect on personal identity as well as mental health.

Depersonalization and derealization may also develop in adults as a result of depression and anxiety. It’s unclear if genetic predisposition plays a role in the development of a dissociative disorder, however, there is evidence that suggests hormonal imbalances and changes in the chemical make-up and function of the brain may increase the risk of developing one. Leaving dissociation unaddressed can even hinder the effectiveness of anxiety or depression treatments because the disorders are so closely linked.

Am I experiencing Depersonalization or Derealization?

It’s not uncommon to experience both rather than one or the other. 

Depersonalization is defined as feeling detached from yourself. You may feel as though you are out of your body and watching your life through a movie, rather than experiencing events as they happen. A person experiencing depersonalization may experience:

  • constant dreaming
  • detachment from memories or a lack of emotion when recalling memories
  • uncertainty of your memories due to lack of emotion
  • feeling mechanical or robotic, as if you aren’t in control of your actions
  • numbness to events and feelings occurring
  • confusion about your personality or physical state of being

Derealization is described as feeling as if you’re not living in reality or completely disconnected from your surroundings. You may have trouble recalling things that should seem familiar and may even perceive them to be imaginary. A person experiencing derealization may experience:

  • disconnection from others, emotionally or in their relationships
  • blurry or a strange perception of their spaces and surroundings
  • hazy memories and trouble recalling experiences, events, or conversations that have happened in the past
  • an impaired sense of time
  • feelings of “going crazy” or like you’re living in a movie

How Long Does Depersonalization or Derealization Last?

Episodes of depersonalization will usually last about 20-30 minutes. In some rare cases they last hours, weeks, or even years. Identifying the underlying cause is important in determining how long a person is affected. Treatment and counseling can help to resolve these periods and prevent them in the future.

Can BetterHelp Me If I’m Experiencing Depersonalization or Derealization?

Going through a depersonalization episode can be scary. With the assistance of BetterHelp, you are not alone. 

BetterHelp is the largest counseling program in the world. It allows you to connect with licensed professionals who can speak to you from the comfort of your own home. And, of course, all your conversations will be completely confidential. 

BetterHelp counselors are specialized in certain areas so that they can better treat your specific conditions. For example, if you are managing depersonalization or derealization, you can speak to BetterHelp counselors or therapists who focus on similar issues. These therapists are also available for a 24 hour chat, so if you have an episode of depersonalization, you can reach out to them and they can talk you through it back to safety. 

BetterHelp counselors are officially certified just like in-person counselors, so you can really trust them. Plus, they do not have all the normal costs of running a brick and mortar business, so online therapy is far more affordable than traditional therapy. 

If you aren’t sure where to start but want to better manage your episodes, BetterHelp might be a good fit for you. A few clicks with online therapy could be all it takes to start reclaiming yourself and your life.


Get in touch with BetterHelp therapists if you believe their services are right for you.

References

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/depersonalization-disorder-mental-health#1

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depersonalization-derealization-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352911#:~:text=Episodes%20of%20depersonalization%2Dderealization%20disorder,periodically%20get%20better%20or%20worse.

https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-simple-ways-to-relieve-depersonalization/

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Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.