Depersonalization/derealization is a disorder brought on from severe anxiety, often brought on by either traumatic events, drug-use, or OCD, in which sufferers remain in a constant dream-like mind set. Depersonalization can be defined as being the detachment from oneself, feeling as if they are not real, while derealization is known as the disconnection from the rest of the world. Whether you suffer from depersonalization, derealization, or both, it is an extremely frustrating thing to try to deal with — many don’t understand how you see the world, so there are very few people to confide in. It’s as if there is a clear wall between you and everyone else all the time, making moments difficult to enjoy, or even deal with, on a human level. This article is for those out there looking to help a loved one, whether that be sister, son, or significant other, deal with depersonalization/derealization.
1. Avoid Bringing Your Loved One To A Place With Fluorescent Lighting
Sounds like a super weird tip, right? Well, it may be more helpful than you think. People with depersonalization/derealization not only mentally, but also physically see the world differently. Colors appear to brighter and objects seem to be distorted both in size and distance; it’s like needing sunglasses 24/7. Places with highly fluorescent lighting can cause lightheadedness due to the overbearing HD of the universe, making the disorder even worse. Try sticking to darker, cozier places, or if you find you and your loved one in a fluorescent, sterile environment, ask them how they’re doing.
2. Don’t Try To Pressure Them Into During Recreational Drugs Or Drinking
This is a rule that should apply to all people, because — why would you want to pressure someone you love into doing anything? However, it is an extremely important rule to follow when dealing with a loved one with depersonalization/derealization. Although marijuana is oftentimes used to help anxiety, depersonalization/derealization anxiety can actually worsen because of marijuana. Of course, it is different with everyone, but many people with this disorder, once intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, can feel so disconnected that it can lead to panic attacks. Victims of depersonalization/derealization already feel “high” most of the time anyways. Alcohol or drug withdrawal also makes depersonalization/derealization worse. Although there can be negative effects to substances, many sufferers of this disorder will experiment with substances in hopes of feeling human and “normal,” so even the slightest bit of peer pressure can lead them to doing something that they really don’t want to do, even if you think it will be fun.
3. When They’re Having One Of Their “Bad Days,” Try To Occupy Them With Something Fun
Depersonalization/derealization feeds off of itself, causing sufferers to become obsessive about it and therefore making the symptoms much worse. Victims of this disorder are known for asking and stressing over life’s big questions: What’s the meaning of life? What’s it matter, anyways? Once they start asking these questions, they get sucked into “The Void,” trapped and extremely difficult to get out of. One thing to avoid when hanging out with your loved one are these big questions. Try to occupy them with something hands-on and mentally stimulating. Physical activity is great, or if your loved one is someone like me who despises physical activity, try something artistic. Go rollerskating, bowling, to an arts class, and don’t underestimate the power of a Netflix marathon. A positive form of escape will help your loved one feel closer to themselves, you, and the universe!
4. Be Patient And Don’t Take Things Personally
Symptoms of depersonalization/derealization worsen in times of anxiety, so sufferers experience a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes they’ll feel like they need to be around you, while sometimes they’ll really need their alone time. Don’t take it personally when your loved one wants to be left alone because you’re “too much to handle right now.” It’s not your fault, it’s just that sometimes they can’t help but feel disconnected from you — imagine how frustrating it is for them in that moment, not being able to feel close to the one that they love…makes them feel some sort of inhuman. Always try your best to be understanding, no matter how they’re feeling. Let them know that you’ll be there for them at all times. Causing them to feel bad about not wanting them to see you makes their anxiety worse; believe me, they feel bad enough. Just remind yourself that they’re struggling, but that they do, in fact, love you, no matter how distant they may seem.
5. Most Importantly, Ask Them How They’re Doing
Like I mentioned earlier, everyday is going to be different for your loved one, but no matter how good they’re feeling, they’re always going to have their disorder — some days are just better than others. This is something that happens not just with depersonalization/derealization but is something that happens with all mental disorders. Many people suffering from emotional problems often keep their feelings to themselves, avoiding the title of “burden” for the ones they care about. They feel alone and misunderstood, and really do, just want to feel “normal” and a part of something. For both you and your loved one, ask them how they’re doing. This way they’ll feel more comfortable talking about how they’re feeling and you’ll feel more prepared as to how they’ll react, what you should do and what you shouldn’t. Some people suggest asking your loved one how their symptoms are on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst and one being as if their depersonalization/derealization was almost nonexistent! If your loved one ever seems uncomfortable in a certain environment, just double check that everything’s alright; they could be putting themselves through an anxiety inducing situation just to prove something to those around them or, most likely, to themselves. Let them know that it’s okay to feel the way they’re feeling and that they are, in fact, human. Each action of human love and compassion will help your loved one realize that everything in this life, including themselves, is worth it.