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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When I first experienced DP/DR I felt very small. The symptoms were so much larger than me I felt. It was like "I" was being devoured by the symptoms.

For instance when i would move my arm I was acutely aware of the sensations caused in the movement like viewing hundreds of little "photo,slides" or "stills" rather than one fluid movement. It was the same with my legs, i.e. minute awareness of stages in the movement, or the feel of the ground beneath my feet. So focussed was I that I could get lost in the sensations which often seemed to go on to echo and reverberate into a vast empty space. Then there would come a sort of feeling of falling through a directionless space inside my mind, but my mind was not just inside my head it seemed to be everywhere even in machines and inanimate things around me. It was very scary. It is kinda hard to explain just what I mean.

But it dawned upon me today when i moved my arm and got that feeling of my arm being "unreal" that I have sort of grown accustom to it. It is now like a sensation and thought I HAVE, rather than a sensation and thought which HAS me. That is, I no longer loose myself in the sensations like i once did and haven't for a number of years now.

There are times of course under certain circumstances where I still can get caught up and loose my sense of self into these "unreality" sensations, sometimes these sensations are very powerful, but most of the time they exist more like a background in my awareness. I know that the DP/DR is still with me, but it seems as though other things have taken precedent in my awareness over these feelings of "unreality."

I feel as though my sense of self has enlarged to be able to envelope and include the feelings of DP/DR as part of who I am rather than "annihilating" (SP?) me with the ferocity that they once did.

I am wondering if any others here who feel they have pretty much overcome the worst of DP/DR feel the way that I do. i.e. the symptoms are still there but have been minimized by other mental and emotional content, or if you feel that DP/DR are completely absent from your life at this point.?

Or do you see DP/DR as existing on a continuum that "normal" people also have but just not to the same extent?

Anyway thanks


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Dear John,
I'm glad you're here as a representative of the "longtimers". I have had DP/DR most of my life, and it became chronic about 30 years ago, 24/7, even in my dreams. (I'm 46)

I think I identify with what you're saying, in my own way. Again -- I have to laugh at how many times I've said this -- we are all unique, and yet very similar.

I came from a very abusive home, so I never got the help I needed when all of my problems started -- even really in 2nd grade. My mother was a psychiatrist, knew what was wrong, but was also my abuser. It made things tremendously confusing.

OK, early on, without help or support, I felt like Hell. Very disconnected from myself. The feelings were frequently unbearable. My anxiety, depression, the dissociation affected every aspect of my life, and indeed still does.

BUT, I have noted over time, a similar "acceptance" of the situation, particularly in the past, hmmm, maybe 6 years. Why?

1. Therapy - one on one and now group (coping skills and dealing with some seriuos problems re: interpersonal relationships, certainly the result of my upbringing.)
2. Meds - some made a tremendous difference in dealing with the DP/DR especially and still do
3. Learning about who I am, dealing with all of my psychological baggage.
4. Time.
5. "Coming out of the closet" -- not hiding my illness, "keeping it secret" -- that is very freeing. If people can't deal with who I am, then I can't be bothered.

Though I did dwell on the existential, and the misery of being detatched from my body, I never feared insanity... merely complete incapacitation. Hospitalization for becoming completely "gone." There is always that thought that I could simply become so detached I won't be able to function at all. At various points in my life, I have considered taking my own life.

But I have always said to myself, not so much as a young girl, but when I first got a diagnosis at 15, that "this is an illness." I wish I had had support from my mother or father. And I have no extended family.

I believe early intervention could have made a HUGE difference. My conditioned psychological issues could have been dealt with much earlier on, my symptoms acknowledged.

Yes, over the years, I have come more to a point of "acceptance", though I don't want to. I don't want to be on meds. I don't want to have these problems. But this is my life.

As a result, I am slowly dealing with the chronicity. I have incorporated DP/DR into my life. It is less frightening -- though still very limiting. But I still hope for a return to reality. I can't give up on that, however that is achieved.

I'm rambling, but I hope this sort of answers your question.

I think it is significant for me that I am the daughter of two doctors, again one a psychiatrist. I have always had a more scientific POV about the whole thing, though I've debated the Nature/Nurture issue for years.

I realize the analyzing, the examination of why is far less important now than simply learning coping skills, implementing them, and getting back out into the world.


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John you also said:

Or do you see DP/DR as existing on a continuum that "normal" people also have but just not to the same extent?
I don't see this at all. Though we know that "normal" people can experience DP/DR for brief periods of time, I do not see this on a spectrum.

I have far too many friends who just "don't get this", it is not part of their experience. Other relatives, psychiatrists, others with different mental illnesses.

I have tried to make EVERY therapist I've seen, "focus" on his/her body, think "existential thoughts", "bring on" the DP/DR. They have no clue what I'm talking about.

Regardless of where this symptom comes from -- and I think the source can be different in different people here, and come in varying degrees of severity -- it is NOT a normal experience. This would be like saying that someone who experiences chronic deja-vu is on a spectrum of normality. I see that as pathology.

I see how NURTURE, my life experience, led to the manifestation of this symptom. Particularly my "invalidating environment" (this comes from my current DBT work). But I was also, highly susceptible to dissociate. Some people are, some are not. It could very well have been that I would have emerged from my upbringing, granted with some major psychological issues requiring therapy, but WITHOUT DP/DR. I also have GAD, and I really see the Borderline traits in myself, and see them in my mother.

I firmly believe my mother was a high-functioning Borderline. I don't know that she experienced DP. I doubt it. She made fun of me when I talked about it.

So, I see this as pathology, again regardless of how it was created in me. And my illness has evolved over the years, again with insight gained from therapy, from meds, from researching about mental illness, from being very much involved in Mental Health related volunteering.

Hope this isn't too long and incomprehensible.

And again, everyone's experience of this is different. I wonder if I had more "breaks"/"remissions" if I would be more confident that I will get well.

This is NOT a normal experience. I don't believe that for a moment. But that is only my POV, and it comes from my unique personal experience.

Hope this helps.

I gotta run!

Sorry you are a longtime too, John. It ain't no party.

Take Care,

Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi Dreamer

Thank you for your very nice thoughtful response.

DP/DR is indeed a very complex and difficult subject to address, for as you have pointed out we as individuals may experience it differently from one another. And also time itself can change the way in which we as individuals may personally experience DP/DR.

I have been thinking recently that it might be misguided in many cases to focus strictly upon the elimination of DP/DR but rather it may be more productive for an individual to work on expanding their sense of self beyond the symptoms of DP/DR. To work at developing a large enough "self" which can accomodate the symptoms while maintaining a sense of emotional equanimity.

For instance you have spoken about your new therapy which involves the practice of "concious awareness." I would assume that this would entail the concious awareness of the DP symptoms. Obviously it is hard to imagine that one could be unaware of DP/DR but to be "conciously aware" may be different than simply being cognizant of their presence. For to me at least to be conciously aware implies the capacity to "reflect" upon what it is that one is concious of. We are concious of DP/DR through the sensations we feel. Having the capability to reflect upon these sensations we have already created a physic distance between us and the sensations. Otherwise cognitive reflection would not be possible.

When we look at the symptoms of DP/DR in this way, that is when we realize that there is something in our minds that is observing the DP/DR sensations, something which is witnessing and reflecting upon the symptoms and sensations, it is that aspect of the self which is the perciever to which we might be best served in turning our attention towards rather than engaging in a battle with our symptoms. When we get the feeling that we don't exist, who or what is it that feels they don't exist?

When we question our DP/DR in this way, with "concious awareness" we begin to create a relationship to the symptoms of DP/DR. In a relationship there must be at least two parts. In this case one of the parts is our symptoms and the other is the self which expierences them. When we begin to form this relationship to our symptoms we recognise a distinction between our sensations and our self as the "witness." Through an identification with this witness part of our psyche, we learn to "dissassociate" from the symptoms, that is, we no longer confuse them with our sense of self. The unreal sensations are something which we as a self experience but they no longer are instrumental in defining us as a "self." Utilizing this "discrimination process" we learn to distinguish one from the other. Of course the actual nature of the "Self" remains controversial, involving much wrangling by the different Philosophic camps.

Anyway I have found this line of thinking helpful in dealing with DP/DR as I now experience it. Hope it may prove helpful to some others here as well.

Thanks again for your welcome replies.


Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Through an identification with this witness part of our psyche, we learn to "dissassociate" from the symptoms, that is, we no longer confuse them with our sense of self.
John, I think that is right on target. However, as positive as I am that it would work, I had no personal luck with it. It clearly makes great sense, and I'm sure there is a way to work through the obsessive and crippling aspects of these symptoms by doing precisely what you describe.

That said, for me, I had no success whatsoever coping with the nightmare. The more I thought about it in ANY form, the worse it got. Although the DSM calls depersonalization a form of dissociation, I see it as the opposite of dissociation. (although I would agree that it should be classified as a "dissociative disorder")

When normal humans dissociate (as everyone does in a wide variety of circumstances throughout a day), it requires the person to STEP aside from his own self-awareness. Dissociating is precisely what allows us to awaken from a dream and "leave" the dream experience behind (to say, "oh, okay..that was "dream janine" and that's a state that is over now" and then dissociate self from the experience enough to bound out of bed and have a day)

In dp states, we are constantly watching self. We feel the slightest of shifts within consciousness, and we freak - we clamp down HARDER on consciousness, no sense of free flowing give and take. THAT is what must change in order to push the condition in the background.

And again, that said, I couldn't do it. I was absolutely at the effects of my symptoms until I found out where they were coming from.

Peace, always a pleasure to read your posts,

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Well, I think I missed this totally here, and am sort of too tired to answer, but want to answer some of this.

Firstly, man, dissociation/DP, all of this is extremely difficult to write down on an internet forum. Need to discuss.

Let me address a few things though.

1. When my symptoms are at their absolute worst, and I have episodes now, about 4 in the past 6 months, where in dreams my DP/DR was so bad I wanted to hang it up. I find that there is a connection with anticipatory anxiety, my period (forgive), and caffeine. I examined all of these episodes closely with my therapist, and those were the variabes.

I don't look forward to menopause.

2. No eye-poking Janine :shock: 8) you know you and I disagree most specifically on the concept of Unconscious conflicts/desires/wishes, etc. I believe that to most of us, our understanding of ourselves is not that hidden, that with work, and I'm not saying WHICH type of work is best for each person we can gain insight into what is exacerbating our difficulties and work accordingly to manage them.

For some there may be a cure. For myself, I haven't found one. The things that worked best for me were meds. From there I have been able to work in various types of therapy to understand and address my psychological issues which contribute to my anxiety which then contribute to my DP. In my case, I see the DP as a coping mechanism. A bad one, which "shuts me down" or has.

Or, sometimes, when it is so hideous, I wonder if it isn't purely a neurological failure. Sigh.

3. What astounds me is that I have worked with a number of excellent doctors. NONE of them every diagnosed me with borderline although my psychopharmacologist was confused by severe mood swings/black and white thinking. He at one time thought I had "some borderline tendencies".

I exhibited these to excess with a number of other therapists who didn't help me with these emotions. Now in DBT, where these emotions can be addressed head-on, I'm a tad ticked that no one actually confronted me with my rather horrible behavior.

Borderline patients are known to have episodes of severe depersonalization, and I finally find that makes perfect sense with me. But I see it now as the ultimate in SHUTTING down. It is like seeing things in black and white. It is a bad coping mechanism, that CAN be dealt with, or at least I'm trying to in DBT. This is the first type of therapy which calls me on the carpet, makes me aware of inappropriate or self-destructive behavior and says, "You have a choice here, but you need to work on change, this may help you do it."

I do understand, or I think I do, the root causes of my screwy emotions and behaviors. They are not hidden to me I guess, not much anymore. I see the damage both of my parents perpetrated. But I can't change it. I AM aware of it, and what I can control.

This is getting way too long.

4. John, re "conscious awareness". I'm not sure we have the same term here. In DBT, the use of Buddhism stresses "Mindfulness" which is LIVING IN THE PRESENT. Being mindful of LIFE, not our inner monologue, our inner negative racing thoughts, even our symptoms.

One is not more aware of the DP, if anything the work is quite the opposite, what Janine has stressed, and other people here. Distraction, interacting in life activities to the best of one's ability, NOT focusing on the DP.

I must say however:

I could have used this DBT as a young girl. I would have understand how I was laying a conditioned foundation for disaster, perhaps the chronicity of my DP which I reinforced with fear.

BUT, at a certain point, when I was very ill in my 20s, NOTHING worked. The only thing that got me back INTO life, in order to LIVE it, to experience it, were medications. From there, I was able to get more out of therapy, and more out of understanding myself.

This is very complicated and I'm getting tired.

Being Mindful, being "aware", in DBT, in Buddhism, simply means being aware of the real world. When washing the dishes, do it slowly, feel the soap, the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap, the texture of the sponge, etc. It is a grounding technique. It does NOT mean trying to understand or focus on the DP... ach, now I'm confused. The goal is to push through it. And one success at a time, on tiny step of change leads to another.

Also, in working with intrusive thoughts, one using "opposite action", that is hitting a negative thought with a positive one, over and over and over again. This is essentially desensitization, CBT, etc.

I'd love to xerox my handouts... a phonebook worth at this point. Or one can look up the link I put up somewhere to Marsha Linehan's work.

I don't know if I will ever be cured. I do think, I can keep making the effort to THINK more rationally, which in turn decreases anxiety, which in turn decreases dissociation. At least in my case.

Also, I can only do the best I can, as can anyone here with the resources I have, with the POV I have -- that is partly innate, and partly the result of my upbringing. I don't think we can change who we are, the foundation of our selves. Our way of reacting to the world.

I have to reread what y'all said to see if I responded at all logically here.

And again, no eye poking. I certainly don't have the answers for everyone, only what I think has worked for ME.

And Mindfulness, or "conscious awareness", is focus on REAL LIFE, not on symptoms, negative/destructive thinking/behaviors. One is told, as in Buddhist thought, to let the negative obsessive thoughts to pass over you, like a waterfall. This is Buddhist teaching. The enlightenment that the Buddhist acheives is very simple. I don't see it as DP or some version of it. It is just the OPPOSITE. BEING COMPLETELY IN THE MOMENT, not with one's emotion's stuffed, or smothered, or shut down, etc.

OH TOO LONG! :shock:

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Oh yes... far too long.

Of course, all people dissociate at one time or another. There are many examples. THat link to Ramachandran's work is a good example, and the actual clinical examination of the fact that we can only handle about 5% of what's going on in the world. The rest is "unconscious", below the surface, or we'd be inundated with all sorts of input we couldn't integrate. We get sheer system overload.

The thing with DP ... the severity, the disability. As I see it, it certainly serves no good purpose in terms of survival. If I were a cavewoman with this, I'd have long been left out in the desert and been eaten by lions, LOL.

When dissociation works... say in an auto accident... and it keeps an individual focused purely on hanging onto the steering wheel, and becoming void of thought and emotion... yes, it's fight/flight. My husband told me of this in a horrible head-on he survived a few years ago.

But he said to me... my God, if that is how you feel all the time, I couldn't bear it. So it was adaptive for him, briefly, but as he said, if he had to experience it 24/7 he might consider throwing in the towel himself.

Hope some of this makes sense.

OK, end of ramble. :shock:

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Oh HECK, this has to be discussed, or a book is in order.

The observing self. The human has this. The great apes may have this as well. This is a quality of all human beings, our concern with who we are, why we are, why we die, etc. That is not exclusive to those with DP.

I think the SYMPTOMS we have, not the THOUGHTS that a philospher might have.... that's something different. Something has gone AWRY with the observing self.

It's amazing it works as well as it does.

Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've MISSED those long posts, grin....

no eye pokes at all, as mostly I agree with what you're saying (mostly :lol:

I do totally agree re: the DBT techniques/mindfulness, etc. That is almost what I mean with "focus outward" although it might not sound like it. The idea is to focus on OTHER than the become so focused on life, on one's decisions, choices, feelings, etc. that one is not watching self. One is AWARE, but not in the dp way of being obsessively SELF-aware. Instead one is striving to be fully awake. Totally agree.

I also happen to agree with the Queen of Research up there that most normal people do NOT have degrees of dp. Not at all. I do believe the human brain is CAPABLE of dp, but probably only in extreme conditions for most people.

The average person can understand massive anxiety because they have known fear. And they can understand major depression, because they have known sadness. But a horse of a unique color. and we are a "special" club.


Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If I were a cavewoman with this, I'd have long been left out in the desert and been eaten by lions, LOL.
poor Dreamer. not only would she have been Lion Chow, but she would have been wandering the desert trying to figure out why a) there weren't any good caves around; and b) what the hell is a lion doing in the Sahara?


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OK, where's that little Zombie smiley thing? That deserves an eye poke 8)

Oh, one last thing (cough) I forgot to add. When I am seriously DPd and feel as though "I am the only thought in existence" or even if I have entertained the thought "am I the only person alive and is the world all in my mind" -- this has been an AS IF experience. I have never believed it to be true.

When this was really bad -- teens/twenties -- my mother made it clear that I was "defective" mentally, or was acting, but the clear impression she gave was that I had some psychiatric problem that was a humiliation to her. As a result, I tended to see this, and still do, as a medical illness -- a horrible one.

I can't say I have delusions that I have created the world. I say to myself, "It feels AS IF I did" but I never believe I have.

Another clarification.

OK, back to real life, LOL. (Right)
This DP business is really a bite in the rump. :shock:
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