Before neone reads this I must warn you it is verrryyy long, but I thought that it was only right to post my story after being on here for a few weeks now. I know this is probably similar to a lot of your stories.
I suppose where I want to start is at the beginning.
Late January 2005: The student lifestyle began to take its toll on my health. Excessive drinking and a bad diet with little exercise left me unfit and increasingly anxious, although I never would have admitted it at the time. I had always been super fit and so this was an alien experience to me. Toward the end of Jan one heavy session with THC induced a state of panic and hallucination.
Funny thing was that at the time one of my assignments for my uni course was to write a report on the alteration in cannabinoid tolerance seen when a person is exposed to increasing doses, lol. It wasn?t very funny at the time though, it just made me more anxious.
There were no initial dp or dr symptoms for the first month post attack, but I felt a definite increase in anxiety, paranoia and self-analysis. This led to symptoms such as raised heart beat and palpitations.
My first panic attack after the initial experience was approx. 1 month later. It occurred in a lecture, but I attributed it to a high intake of sugars and caffeine that morning, although these may have contributed, I know now that this attack was brought on by my over-analysis of my first experience and the anxiety caused by this.
From that moment started the downward spiral into the loop of anxiety over possible irrepairable brain damage and panic that eventually led to my state over the Easter holiday 2005. From the moment I got on the plane home I was caught up in a cycle of panic attacks that lasted for 3 weeks. Panic attacks were stimulated by my fear of the now co-morbid derealisation feelings I got from the constant anxiety. These panic attacks occurred in a continuum with a noticeable period between where I could not be affected by an attack, but was slightly depressed and at low ebb.
I eventually broke this cycle when I realized that I might be suffering from acute panic disorder. I fitted the categorization at the time and realized that it was my fear of fear that was causing the panic attacks. I tried not to pay so much attention to the symptoms and I haven?t had an attack since.
However, this was not the end of the story. I noticed that the dr was still present. My constant search for answers to why this was the case brought me to the London Royal psychiatric college website where I encountered the word Depersonalization. I read over all the associated literature, including all the recent papers published in the area and came to the fairly sound conclusion that I was suffering from this strange and supposedly rare condition. A link from that site brought me to this site, and what a saviour it has been. I was amazed as I read through the threads on the forum as to how many people were suffering the same symptoms, down to the last!
List of my own Symptoms:
No emotional response to most visual images.
Images feel 2D and often feel as if they are computer-generated.
Flourescent (or bright) lights intensify feelings.
Constant over-analysis of the condition, (many thoughts cluttering my mind).
Ever present moderate anxiety (often over trivial matters).
Circumstances which would normally cause alarm or fear arouse little emotional response.
Emotional response to people is definitely lower due to feelings of unreality.
Hangovers trigger increased dp, possibly due to increased anxiety?
But, I have seen marked improvements in my state by using some of the methods underlined below.
I was interested in the possibility of CBT as a possible ?cure? to dp. However, I was reluctant to go and see a doctor because of the stigma associated with mental illness. I also did not believe he/she would understand what I was talking about and misdiagnose my condition. I had not told anyone, apart from those on this site about my condition.
Therefore, I implemented three concepts of CBT I had found in the paper (Depersonalisation disorder: a cognitive?behavioural conceptualisation- E. C. M. Hunter, Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London) into my daily life.
1) Non-avoidance of circumstances I was uncomfortable or afraid of in relation to my dp.
2) Strengthening my experience of reality by focusing on tasks.
3) Avoided thinking too much about the dr/dp.
The inter-relationships between these approaches are clear to see.
I managed to reduce the dp symptoms significantly using 1) and 2), finding that my emotional response to people started to slowly reappear first. This was followed by a reduction in the affect fluorescent lights have on me as I was able to deal with that problem head on and reduce my anxiety over this issue.
Other things that I found helped in the short term were:
Good diet low in carbs and high in vitamins and essential oils.
Reduction of my caffeine intake. (reduced baseline anxiety levels)
Reduction of my alcohol intake. (? ?)
I found it very difficult to implement 3 due to the obsessive nature of thought associated with dp and this is what has halted my progress presently. I know that to be fully free from dp I need to be able to eliminate the negative, fearful emotions I still have attached to the derealisation, at least that is what I hope. I feel that I can only achieve this by gradually learning to dismiss negative thoughts when dp arises quickly and efficiently. It is starting to work, but progress is painstakingly slow and I often have days where feeling of dp fluctuate quite dramatically from almost unbearable to nearly non-existent.
If you have got to the end you deserve a gold star,
but seriously, thanks. This is a great site with some really great people, i'd still be back where I was without it.