- Depersonalisation is the feeling of being disconnected from your own body or when your body feels unreal
- Derealisation is the feeling of being disconnected from the things around you or when your surroundings seem unreal.
Depersonalisation and derealisation are defence mechanisms that the mind employs to help it cope with too much stress.
For some people these feelings may last for a few minutes or a few hours. They are surprisingly common – one survey found that 23% of people have had these feelings for a short period of time. It’s a natural response to highly stressful situations.
For other people these feelings may last much longer, be distressing and impact on daily life, and they may have depersonalisation- derealisation disorder. 1% of people have this disorder, which is the same percentage as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Most people who experience it will have a mix of both depersonalisation and derealisation, but you can have just one or the other too. It’s important to remember that the symptoms of depersonalisation and derealisation are different for each person.
There are 4 main triggers for chronic depersonalisation or derealisation.
For all the triggers the mind is under a lot of strain and as a way of coping disconnects from reality.
It’s possible to recover from depersonalisation or derealisation. Some people recover naturally by treating the triggers, this reduces the strain on the mind which allows it to recover. Some people may need clinical help to recover.
Although your symptoms may feel scary, worrying about them could make them worse. Try to find ways to stay calm as for most people their symptoms will go away naturally. Our Calm Zone could help you stay calm.
The next thing to do is to try and let your mind recover. You can help your mind by trying to reduce the impact of the trigger(s) that is causing your depersonalisation or derealisation.
If you recognise yourself experiencing any of the 4 triggers above you may be experiencing depersanalisation or derealisation and there are things you can try to reduce their impact. Different things will work for different people, it’s important to find what works for you and to stop trying something if it’s making you feel worse.
If after a few weeks you still have symptoms of depersonalisation or derealisation then you can get support from your GP. We have advice on visiting your doctor.
A lot of people aren’t aware of what depersonalisation and derealisation is. You can help explain it to your parent or carer by showing them this webpage. You can also speak to your school nurse about it and get their support. Your mental health is important and you deserve to get the support you need.
Before visiting your GP you can fill in this questionnaire and give to them, don't worry if you are unable to fill all of it in, just do what you can.
If you aren’t happy with the support you’re receiving then you can always talk to Childline about it.
There are things you can try to help you cope with depersonalisation or derealisation. Different things will work for different people. It’s important to find what works for you and to stop doing anything that makes you feel worse.