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These are phenomena called depersonalization and derealization, and you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually quite common in psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. They are especially common during panic attacks, but depersonalization and/or derealization (DP/DR) can happen at any time. For instance, derealization is something I’ve experienced throughout most of my life, and strangely enough, it has never occurred while I was actually having a panic attack.

DP/DR can be incredibly distressing. These experiences tend to fuel further anxiety and panic attacks, and perpetuate the feelings of DP/DR. It can become a vicious cycle that feels impossible to break, and this is often very frightening for those who don’t fully understand what’s going on.

If it’s happening to you, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that it happens to many of us, and it does not mean you’re crazy, or that you’re going crazy! Despite feeling uncomfortable or scary, it’s actually not dangerous and will not cause lasting damage.

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