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Hi there,

I've been putting this off for some time now. I didn't want to revisit my symptoms and revisit the pain and upset but I am now in a position where I feel strong enough to do so. My one motive is to give people hope. I'll start by describing the symptoms I had/still have to a much lesser extent, and then go on to discuss how I worked my way out of it. I can't stress strongly enough how much I didn't believe I could ever get out of the destructive cycle of DP/DR. I trawled this and other forums for answers and found myself focusing on the countless horror stories of DP/DR sufferers who had struggled with their symptoms for 20 or 30+ years. I promise you that there is a way out of feeling like this.

For info I am 24 and live in the UK. I have been diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder and currently take 150mg of Sertraline every day. I started my medication in April 2014.


I can't remember a time when I haven't felt some degree of profound detachment - this manifests itself in the form of depersonalisation and derealisation; both of which I suffered with in equal measure. As a child I was very shy and afraid of trying new things. Nobody could understand why as on the face of it I was a bright and relatively popular kid without any major problems that anyone could readily identify. As I grew up I became increasingly introvert, avoiding social situations wherever possible and retreating into gaming and later, alcohol. I found alcohol to be a helpful way to numb my symptoms in the short term, though I found out later in life that this was one of the major contributing factors that worsened my DP/DR. I suffered through high school, college and University. In University my symptoms grew worse as alcohol was more readily available and social situations became harder to avoid, I had several disastrous relationships and everything spiraled out of control. I started having panic attacks in lectures and had a constant feeling of detachment. Despite all this I managed to make a good set of friends and do well in my studies.

I'll list my most prominent symptoms below so you get a sense of what I experienced (POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING)

Depersonalisation - I had almost no sense of identity, I didn't recognise myself in the mirror and had trouble connecting to friends and family members. Logically I knew who they were and who I was but everything seemed unfamiliar. My name seemed unfamiliar, I felt strange that I knew certain details like my bank information and my birth date as they didn't seem connected to me. My voice felt detached from my mind and I didn't know how I was forming the sentences that I was speaking.

Derealisation - My visual symptoms were a big cause of this. I have visual snow (a kind of grainy static in my vision) and this had long contributed to my panic disorder. Objects looked unreal and I constantly questioned reality. This was terrifying and pulled me out of social situations as I started to question my surroundings.


Things came to a head when I started my job after University. The stress of work led to a breakdown and constant suicidal thoughts.

I visited my GP who was not very understanding but my medical insurance at work covered treatment with a Psychiatrist. I visited the Psych who diagnosed an anxiety disorder and kind of ignored the DP/DR as mere symptoms of the bigger anxiety disorder. I understand that this is a contentious issue: is the DP/DR standalone or a part of anxiety? I won't get into that here but I don't think the answer would affect my advice in any way.

On the recommendation of the Psych I began 150mg of Sertraline daily (I built up from 50mg to 100mg and finally to 150mg over a month.) I also attended sessions with a Clinical Psychologist who went through an 8 week Mindfulness course with me, teaching me exercises and helpful, practical tips to combat the anxiety.


The Sertraline helped to put me into a better and more rational state of mind. For anyone who has been prescribed the medication but is afraid to take it (I was terrified), my experience has been very positive with very few side effects. (I spent 2-3 days reading awful stories about Sertraline on the web before beginning the medication!)

The Mindfulness course was quite useful but it was a lot of information that I already knew.

I believe that it is possible to work your way out of DP/DR without medication or attending any particular course. The biggest help for me has been a change in lifestyle. I cut out alcohol and caffeine when I started the medication and have been exercising more than I did before. This is not a miracle cure and will not rid you of the DP/DR but it will put you in a better state of mind.

Over the last 6 months I have noticed a gradual improvement in my general wellbeing. The DP/DR has remained with me but it is slowly fading away and it scares me less when it reappears. The most common advice I see on the internet is to just 'ignore' your DP/DR as that is the only way to stop it having such a strong emotional anchor in your mind. There is a good deal of truth to this but it is quite simplistic and unrealistic to advise someone to ignore something that is the biggest problem in their life. It is like telling a cancer sufferer to ignore the fact they have cancer (I am not being flippant here). Although you cannot 'ignore' DP/DR, you can gradually wean yourself off the emotional rush you get each time it enters your mind. This takes time and you will not notice the improvement at the time. For me, I often notice the improvement after a certain activity such as a dinner party when I will realise at the end that I hadn't focused on my DP/DR for the entire time. It is more of a passive improvement than an obvious, active improvement.

Another common piece of advice is to occupy yourself with tasks. This is sound advice but it must be taken in stages. I very gradually started to do more social activities and my confidence grew over a period of time. It is a long process and it can be tempting to go back to those things that work in the short term such as alcohol and fast food, but I promise you that they will set you back weeks and weeks on your road to recovery.


My message is that this will not get the better of you. I suffered all my life and continue to have symptoms to this day, though they have far less impact on my life than they once did and I can now 'laugh them off'. I did not know when my symptoms started so I assumed that they would not have an end. I assumed that after 20 years of suffering I could not feel any different because things don't change after that length of time. I was wrong. All the time I had been looking for quick fixes and I was not willing to put in the time an effort to improve over a long period of time. I am a naturally impatient person and this really didn't help.

One thing I would recommend is taking a look at the structure of your day. What is the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you look in a mirror? Do you avoid looking in the mirror for fear of not recognising the person who is looking back at you? Perhaps you look at the mirror more than others do to try and figure out who that person is. Either one of those is unhelpful. My core piece of advice is to avoid doing things more or less as a consequence of your DP/DR. Don't go out purely because you feel avoiding a social situation would be giving in to your DP/DR, sometimes people just don't want to go out. If your reason for going out is to prove something to yourself then you will naturally think more about the DP/DR as it is the main motivator for you going out. Go out because you want to.

It is all about realising when DP/DR is affecting your decision making and slowly changing your patterns in response. Try to achieve a balance and listen to your inner voice. Do something because you want to do it, not because you are trying to prove something. Similarly, if you really want to do something but are afraid of it triggering your DP/DR - do it and see what happens.

6 months ago I did not recognise myself when I looked in the mirror. I did not feel an emotional connection to my family/myself and I had constant thoughts about my surroundings being unreal. Today I am much happier and all of these symptoms have dramatically reduced. I had felt that way for over 20 years. You can change.

DP is frustrating because there is no proven medication or easy fix. The road to recovery is a very passive one, you can't fight it. You just have to accept the state you're in at the time and reassure yourself that it will pass. It's a long road but it will get so much easier with time.

Please feel free to send me a message if you want a chat. I am really happy to help in any way I can.

Best wishes,


It is more of a passive improvement than an obvious, active improvement.
Such a great way to describe times I've been in 'remission.' People speak as if they will throw a party and celebrate when they get better, but the boring truth is that you are usually too busy with life. Part of getting better seems to becoming indifferent to the sensations, and when they dissipate it can be rather anti-climatic.

I'm glad to hear how well you are doing. I hope you stick around to share some advice and experiences with other members.
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