This is a good topic on DP/DR hope it helps!
Depersonalization & Derealization
There is a common symptom-phenomena anxiety disorder sufferers will experience, called "depersonalization and de-realization". These occur commonly in patients with anxiety disorder and sometimes also with clinical depression patients, who suffer with co-existing anxiety and are very concerning to them. What I wish to do in this article is to explain what these symptoms are and to offer some comfort to those who may suffer Anxiety Disorder by relating the fact that both of these are experienced commonly with these emotional disorders and the vast majority of the time, they are neither harmful nor dangerous.
First let's look at "depersonalization". This symptom phenomena commonly found in anxiety disorder sufferers, but especially those with panic attacks, is a symptom-induced experience, where a patient feels they are "unreal", like they no longer exist as a person. They may even feel they have become invisible and that others around them are real but they are not. Some patients describe it as feeling like being a robot and no longer like a human being. Patients have described episodes for example, of looking at their own hand, in front of their face and wondering if it is really there. Patients will also describe experiences of looking into a mirror and actually feeling as if they do not recognize them selves and they feel as if they are having some type of identity crisis. Obviously, these are very scary and very unpleasant experiences for anxiety patients and ones they certainly do not want to continue or reoccur.
These episodes of depersonalization are reported by some anxiety disorder sufferers, to happen immediately preceding the onset of a panic attack or with other severe anxiety symptoms, while others experience depersonalization during an attack of severe anxiety or panic symptoms. Once the depersonalization symptom is experienced by some anxiety suffers, they report that it will occur more frequently and will be triggered more easily, even with less severe anxiety symptoms.
"De-realization", is similar but in this case, that which seems to become unreal, is the person's surroundings. With de-realization, an anxiety sufferer will have episodes of experiencing feelings that their surroundings have become unreal. They will feel as if even reality itself is no longer something they can fully grasp, during those moments. They may even question the existence of things and wonder if life itself is a dream of some type. Some descriptions I have heard of this experience are; "like being inside a bubble", or "like trying to see everything, through a curtain" and "like everything is covered with a thick fog".
Many anxiety sufferers, will experience both depersonalization and de-realization, at the same time or these may alternate, so that they experience each at different times. During episodes of either, they will also commonly have mind fog, meaning they feel hazy and unable to concentrate. These features only add to the unpleasantness of these experiences.
What causes these strange feelings of depersonalization and de-realization that are so concerning to anxiety sufferers? Well we know the "fight or flight response" itself is a protection mechanism, created in us, to help us flee or flight danger and to help us perform more powerfully, with important tasks at hand. These unreality type symptoms, where things seem to become unreal, is very likely part of that same protection mechanism. It may be that our minds will cause ourselves and our surroundings, to temporarily fade from our minds, in order for us to concentrate more intensely, on locating the actual danger that threatens us. It is similar to the reason an anxiety patient's mind will race, because it is trying to scan for dangers that have threatened them and set off the fight or flight response. We also know that all senses are heightened during strong anxiety responses and this too likely adds to these feelings of unrealities.
What is important for anxiety sufferers to know and to understand is the fact that these unreality symptoms, do not indicate the onset of insanity or of one losing their mind. They are very common occurrences with anxiety conditions and will not cause damage to a person's mind or sanity. This fear of going crazy is a very concerning one to those who experience severe anxiety and also those with clinical depression and these two often co-exist but are irrational thoughts and will never take place!
True psychosis, the true term for one actually losing touch with reality and having actual delusions and hallucinations, is the term for actual mental disorders that may or may not have significant emotional aspects to them. Anxiety and common clinical depression are both in the neurosis category, meaning they are stress related and not caused by an underlying mental disorder. Persons with really severe forms of depression, such as Bipolar Disorder, may have psychotic episodes but your more common type depression, called Clinical or Major Depression, is not in the psychosis category. Estimates by some Mental Health Organizations state that psychosis affects an estimated 1% of the U.S. population, whereas, the more common anxiety and depression conditions, affect a much, much higher percent of the population.
Patients with severe anxiety conditions need to learn not to fear these symptoms because adding more fear will intensify and extend the duration of these episodes. This is of course more easily said than done but with time and effort, those with Anxiety Disorders can learn to have less and less fear of these unreality symptoms, to where these symptoms are what fade into the background rather than the realities of self and surroundings.
If you are an anxiety and/or depression sufferer and are concerned by these unreality type symptoms, I challenge you to do a search on the internet, using the search term "Anxiety De-realization and Depersonalization" and you will find many other articles stating how common these unreality symptoms are and the fact that they are not dangerous. In fact do another search, using the term; "Anxiety Depersonalization and De-realization, neither harmful nor dangerous" and you will find even more articles that will help you. These unreality symptoms are common and not dangerous.