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desiree333's avatar

Have you ever gone through a depersonalization or derealization experience?

Asked by desiree333 (3190 points ) December 18th, 2012

About a month ago I was studying late at the library, and had to go to the washroom. It was on an empty floor and I was feeling slightly uneasy. While I was in the stall I started to sort of “zone-out” and daydream for a minute or so. When I came out to wash my hands I looked up at my reflection and what I saw was quite frightening. I felt as if I was standing across from another person, and “my” (their) expression looked like an eerie, dangerous smile. Although I was not even smiling myself. It grew more frightening as I stared and I almost felt like the person staring back at me had violent intentions. Then I snapped out of it and quickly went to a more populated floor.
I had no idea what had happened to me until about 2 weeks later when we talked about the dissociative disorders in my abnormal psychology class (psych is my major). Apparently it can happen when under extreme stress. This pretty much explained it, as the episode happened during some pretty intense exam stress. I’m curious to hear everyone else’s experiences.

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19 Answers

BBawlight's avatar

I do all the time. Especially when I think about the abstract concept of numbers. It mostly happens when I’m alone, but it also happens when I’m walking to my classes in school. I think to myself, “This is my hand. This is my body. Is it really my hand? Is it really my body?”
Does anybody else feel like this?

desiree333's avatar

I forgot to mention this in the description: Quite often I’ll be sitting with friends having normal conversation, then suddenly I feel like I just “snapped-out” of a daydream. Like “have I really been here the whole time?” It’s almost as if I wasn’t actually present physically, but have just been observing the conversation from my seat. Then when I snap back into realization, I just sit there in a stunned silence feeling like they’ve just be jumbling nonsensical words for hours to each other. Everything we previously discussed doesn’t seem real, or seems like a very long time ago. It is very hard to explain, but it just happened to me last night in a restaurant.

desiree333's avatar

@BBawlight Have you ever talked to someone? Maybe you have depersonalization disorder.. Just curious, do you ever have out-of-body experiences, like when you are observing your own body’s actions from a distance? It fascinates me but I’ve never heard anyone’s personal experiences with it before.

BBawlight's avatar

@desiree333 No OOB experiences. I don’t like to imagine one, either. They seem really scary. Haha. I haven’t talked to someone, but I’m sure my parents could set something up if I talked to them about it. I like to keep to myself most of the time. I might have a disorder, everything lines up. But I’ve been like this for most of my life so I don’t see why I would want to get rid of it. It’s something that I like more than anybody should, really.
I’m not sure if this helps or not, but my memories are usually in third-person. Like, when I think about something that happened in the past, I think about it in third person. My brain thinks it’s like a movie or something.

Unbroken's avatar

As a child this happened a lot to me.

I would go some place in my mind. I think it was just blankness utter tranquility while life happened around me.

My that time I viewed childhood as a prison sentence. It didn’t really happen that way during some event though I would alter my state of being, becoming very perceptive and emotionally distant. I had times where I literally pictured walls being built around my mind and emotions. When something got through I would later examine in the damage and either repair it or build another wall. This imagery I typically used brick and mortar though on occasion it was stone.

The mirror and body thing happened as well. I turned pain into something relative to be described and understood. I trained myself not to flinch. Not to respond quite early made me terrible at sports. I had no connection with me. I was too deeply buried.

I had faces and personas I put on. I did a lot of mimicry. When I looked in the mirror I was always suprised.

I had oob experiences. I viewed the events outside my body from above looking down. I don’t think they were particulary stressful or traumatic maybe I just removed the stress through the projection. I was in the hot seat but nothing ever catastrophic happened to me during those events.

After leaving the parents I grew out of it for the most part. It was a gradual process. I didn’t go to counseling until years after the fact.

Being connected to my body is probably the hardest for me. I never know if what I am feeling really qualifies as pain. I ended up in the er twice because my health detoriarted because I was so out of tune with my body. I try to recognize my pains now, but I hate to swing the other direction and be a hypochondriac as well.

Unbroken's avatar

@desiree333 What I have learned from the experience is that you need to have outlets ways to destress perspective and people to confide in.

It can be easier in the short run to disassociate and while helpful during traumatic events it isn’t healthy or helpful in real life.

There are major consequences to using this method as your fall back coping mechanism. At the very least if you haven’t practiced stress management up to that point you should take it as a sign to do so immediately. Exams never go well on an overtaxed stressed brain.

Shippy's avatar

Mine might be different. I don’t know. But if I am severely depressed I can become ‘mute’. Almost catatonic (not quite). The only way I can communicate is to type, and not as ‘me’ but another person that is inside of me. No, I am not MPD. I have no idea what this is or means.

bookish1's avatar

I used to have dissociative experiences and also mystical experiences all the time in high school.

The_Idler's avatar

Never due to stress (my problem is that I don’t stress enough), but during some very intense imagination or conceptualization I have lost awareness of my body.

Suddenly noticing part of your body as an object, before recognizing it as ‘you’ can produce some remarkable state of mind.

I have never been ‘snapped out’ by a mirror before, though, which I can imagine would be most interesting, what with the strong association between face and identity…

I am jealous.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve been different people. But I don’t think I was disassociating. My brain was different. I thought different thoughts. Then they gave me meds and I became who I am now. But sometimes the thoughts of that other person—who I consider the real me—appear. But I’m not supposed to be me. Me is bad. Drugged me is good. Or at least acceptable. Drugged me can get along in the world. Real me causes trouble, sometimes. Real me is not as responsible. Real me does things that might cause problems.

I like to think that everyone is like this. Kind of like the id and the superego duking it out. But it’s different for me because I can’t control it without meds. Even with meds, I barely want to control myself. Which makes me wonder who the real me is.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Very occasionally, and it’s usually when I’m being reflective. I’ve changed so much in my life that “Party Girl” will pipe up with something obnoxious or crazy, then “Responsible Girl” kicks her back to the curb….hahahaha!

That’s what happens when you wait until age 30 to get married ladies!

flutherother's avatar

The first time I remember this happening was when I was about ten years old. I was sitting at my place in class when everything became detached and distant and I was just an observer not really present. I saw one of the girls in my class called Doreen walking up to the front of the room to get her bottle of milk. She seemed very small as if seen through the wrong end of a telescope. I snapped out of it after a few minutes without anyone noticing. I wondered for a long time what had happened but I think it was just a feeling of faintness that had come over me.

augustlan's avatar

Often, when in deep depressions. Mine are like watching myself in a movie. I don’t feel attached to anything happening around me, and become an observer of my own life. Eerie feeling.

sparrowfeed's avatar

that’s intense.

I felt like this when I had a panic attack; like an unbearable madness. Like nothing in reality is as it is. You’re being misled somehow, and you know this is the case, but you’re still being misled.

sparrowfeed's avatar

Sometimes I feel like this when I smoke marijuana, but its a calmer derealization / depersonalization. Why I hardly ever smoke alone.

desiree333's avatar

@augustlan At the time I believe I was under a deep depression, I had been meaning to go to the university counsellor. Every time I made an appointment I would just not show up out of nervousness.

augustlan's avatar

@desiree333 How are you doing now? Are things better for you?

sparrowfeed's avatar

@wundayatta My fiancee recently went on meds (a few months ago) because he’s had persistent depression. I wasn’t fully supportive of the meds. I thought him cutting out alcohol cold turkey would help with the ‘depression.’ It was hard for me to understand why he was depressed, seeing as we had a good future ahead of us. But he’s still on it and I guess it makes things better for him.

He is also extremely sensitive to the world (like human rights’ issues, helps people who are in trouble, etc…) whereas I am more laid back. I help too but I don’t stress too much over a lot of things. I did stress about his condition though (a LOT). I think maybe we were meant to have these opposite personalities and he needs someone to ‘calm him down’ and be supportive, and I need someone who is going to take charge with situations since I am a bit lethargic and ‘slow.’

He’s told me things similar to what you’ve said, that his real ‘me’ is a terrible person, that he’s done terrible things (he was involved with some drugs in the past but put it all behind him). He is a caring idividual and cares deeply about me and the people in his life.

desiree333's avatar

@augustlan I’m doing well, thank you. I had a really great summer and have not felt depressed in a long time now. Sometimes I think seasonal depression affects me. Llooking back I was always most suicidal and numb during winter. December exams are definitely a factor in it too.

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