MENTAL HEALTH MUST READ

DP/DR: Coping with Dissociative Stress

Feb 02, 2023

As highly conscious and heart-centered individuals, we are all aware of the importance of being present and mindful in our daily lives. However, sometimes we may experience a phenomenon known as depersonalization and derealization (DP/DR), which can be unsettling and disruptive to our sense of self and reality. In this blog post, we will explore what DP/DR is, why it happens from a nervous system perspective, and how it relates to the freeze response.


DP/DR is a dissociative disorder characterized by a feeling of detachment from one's self and the environment. This can manifest as a sense of being outside of one's own body, feeling like the world is not real or dreamlike, or having a distorted sense of time. It is a defense mechanism used by the nervous system to protect the individual from overwhelming stress or trauma. Some clients have described these symptoms as 'watching the world through a snow globe', or feeling like they are living in a trance, as if coming off a sedation. This impacts their ability to experience their daily life, and especially impacts their relationships because they feel disconnected from their 'self' AND those around them.


From a nervous system perspective, DP/DR is related to the body's freeze response. The freeze response is a survival mechanism that is activated when an individual is faced with a perceived threat and is unable to escape or fight. The body goes into a state of heightened arousal, but instead of responding with fight or flight, it becomes immobile and unresponsive. This is thought to be an adaptive response to overwhelming stress or trauma, as it allows the individual to conserve energy and resources while the threat is present. Some clients have experienced DP/DR symptoms following a drug-related panic attack or episode of mania, while others have had seemingly spontaneous 'onset' of symptoms that, once unpacked, can be traced back to significant life stressors (such as moving away from home, relationships ending, job/career changes, etc.).


In the case of DP/DR, the nervous system may be in a state of heightened arousal due to ongoing stress or trauma, and the dissociation is a way to protect the individual from the emotional and psychological impact of the stressor. This can be seen as a way to cope with the overwhelming stress, but it can also be problematic, as it can cause an individual to feel detached from their sense of self and reality, which can be difficult to cope with and can affect one's daily life.


Many people with DP/DR experience existential crises, not knowing if there will ever be a "way out" or if they will be "stuck" like this forever. Unfortunately, talk therapy and medications do not help much with this condition, and treatment approaches must take a trauma-informed mind AND body approach to regulate the nervous system back to safety. We have seen many clients go on to live fulfilling, connected and happy lives after recovering from DP/DR, and we hope to see many more.


In conclusion, DP/DR is a dissociative disorder characterized by a feeling of detachment from one's self and the environment. It is a defense mechanism used by the nervous system to protect the individual from overwhelming stress or trauma. It is related to the body's freeze response and can be seen as a way to cope with overwhelming stress, but it can also be problematic, as it can cause an individual to feel detached from their sense of self and reality. It is important for individuals experiencing DP/DR to seek support from a professional with expertise in nervous system regulation and mind-body connection to help them work towards healing.