Mental Health, Mental Illness in Marriage

Depersonalization, Derealization and Panic Attacks

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Panic disorder is a psychiatric condition that causes – episodes characterized by a cluster of disturbing psychological and physical symptoms, commonly referred to as panic attacks. Common symptoms during a panic attack include shortness of breath, shaking, and chest pain which may cause an individual to fear they are having a heart attack.

The psychological and emotional symptoms that accompany these bodily sensations can be equally terrifying. Many individuals who have panic attacks describe feeling as if they are going insane, losing control, even dying.

Two very specific psychiatric symptoms that often occur during panic attacks are depersonalization and derealization. Even though they are somewhat similar and may occur together, they are distinct and completely separate symptoms. Here’s a look at each.

Depersonalization


The hallmark of depersonalization is actually the sensation of being detached from your body – as if you are no longer inhabiting your physical self but rather observing it from a distance. You might even feel as if you have no control over your actions. This terrifying feeling often is accompanied by thoughts and fears of losing touch with reality or perhaps even losing control over yourself.

Depersonalisation can cause frightening physical sensations such as numbness or tingling. It also can be a symptom of another mental illness, such as depression, a result of drug abuse, or a side effect of anti-anxiety medications.

Derealization


Derealization involves feeling detached from your surroundings. You might feel disconnected from external objects in your immediate environment, including other people. Even your closest family membersor|or perhaps|or even friends may seem like strangers.

Often individuals describe derealization as feeling spaced out or even foggy. People and objects in the environment may begin to seem unreal, distorted, or perhaps even cartoon-like. Others report feeling trapped by their environment or even viewing their surroundings as unfamiliar and surreal. It might feel as if you are in a strange country or perhaps even on another planet.

What You Can Do

It is not entirely understood what causes depersonalization or even derealisation to occur during a panic attack. One theory is that these symptoms, together or alone, may serve as built-in mechanisms for coping with extreme stress and anxiety. During a panic attack, they might allow you to put a little distance between yourself and the unpleasant feelings you are having.

There is no treatment for either depersonalization or derealization alone. But, it’s good to note that once the panic attack begins to subside, these symptoms also will fade away.  And there you will discover, things you are able to learn to do, to help speed up this process.

If you are experiencing derealisation, try using your senses in any way you are able to bring yourself back to reality. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand|the hand of yours. Hold onto something that is cold or perhaps even really warm (but not enough to burn you) and concentrate on the sensation of temperature. Count or even name items in the room. Try to keep your eyes moving so that you zone out or start to lose touch again.

If you are experiencing depersonalization, slow your breathing. Often during an anxiety attack, breathing becomes shallow and rapid}, and that interferes with blood flow to the brain. Take very long, slow, deep breaths, focusing on sustaining the exhale as well as the inhale. And since depersonalization causes feelings of detachment from others, reach out to a friend or loved one to talk to, and let them know how you are feeling and ask them to keep talking to you: It does not} matter what you talk about as long as it helps to keep you grounded in the reality of the moment.

Professional Help


As symptoms of a panic disorder, depersonalization and derealization may, in fact, feel very frightening and disturbing, they are not considered either dangerous or life-threatening. Once the panic disorder is actually being treated, panic attacks, as well as the symptoms they bring on, should no longer arise.

A qualified mental health professional who you feel comfortable with can help you deal with panic disorder. Your general practitioner or a local mental health referral service are great places to start looking for a therapist or perhaps even a psychiatrist.

Treatment for panic disorder typically involves medications for panic disorder, psychotherapy, or perhaps both. Bear in mind that it will take a little bit of trial-and-error to craft an effective treatment plan for a mental health problem such as panic disorder, so be patient. 

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