How to deal with and understand issues with perception
March 12, 2017 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Lately I've been trying to understand a weird issue with my perception. I've had episodes of it throughout my life, mostly when I've been going through stress or emotional change. Usually I feel as though I'm not really connected to my surroundings and I zone out when I try to focus on them. It's like there's some sort of invisible barrier keeping me from grasping the reality of the things I see and how they relate to myself, rather than just seeing them like pictures.

Often these feelings are minor, and I only have a slight sense that something is "off"--that I'm not really interpreting the things I see as being real or truly present. I think that I actually feel some very mild version of this a lot of the time, because I tend to get lost in my train of thought. I'm taking a meditation class right now and I find that it can help me feel more connected and in tune with my surroundings, which is something that I really value.

However, the feelings I'm asking about are more intense than my "normal" levels. I think I'm bothered by them not only because of the feeling of unreality, but also because part of me feels like nothing is "actually" wrong and is unable to process the weirdness in the way I process other feelings. For instance--I stayed over at my boyfriend's apartment last night; as we were walking and when I first got there, I had an episode where I felt disconnected from everything around me and couldn't focus on anything. I talked to my boyfriend and tried to describe what I was feeling--I wasn't sad in general and I really wanted to be there, but I still felt strange and was upset because I didn't understand the cause of the strangeness. I suspect that I might be having these feelings more often lately because I'm in a new relationship and I've been going through a lot of emotional upheaval, but I'm not entirely sure.

I felt a lot better later that night, but I'd like to know if any of you have similar issues with perception and if you have any suggestions on how to deal with them. They seem to match some of the symptoms of derealization--but most of the time they're pretty mild, and only intensify when I'm stressed or anxious. Part of my brain is telling me that this issue isn't serious enough for me to need help...but it definitely can interfere with my emotional well-being and ability to work, so I'd like to be able to deal with it somehow in the future.
posted by Lurch to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
my friend (20s otherwise healthy f) was misdiagnosed with dp/dr and is now being treated for stress and anxiety related minor dissociative episodes. i do not know what med she is on, but it is a daily dose. also has talk therapy with specific behavioral guidance. she is a terrific student and a successful performer and music teacher. she is also in a healthy ltr. so maybe get a psych workup.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:06 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're correct that this phenomenon is derealization. I get this too when I'm sleep deprived, or sick, or otherwise off equilibrium. The only solution I've found is to fix whatever has me off balance. If I can get totally absorbed into some task I can usually forget about it, but it's really hard to distract myself when I'm feeling that way. Medically, there's no treatment for derealization in itself but your physician or mental health professional could help you identify if there's something else off that could be contributing to it.
As a fellow sufferer I completely get how distracting it is, especially coupled with the sense that you can power through it, everything just requires more mental energy.
posted by arrmatie at 6:09 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a type of complicated seizures/silent migraines that usually makes me feel this way. It is definitely made worse by stress. It took an EEG to diagnose after becoming progressively worse. It is basically controlled by a small daily dose of medication and not an uncommon condition from what I understand. I'm just putting this out there as another possible cause for the disassociated feeling.
posted by tamitang at 8:20 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also in to encourage you not to dismiss a possible physical cause for this until you've had a workup of some basics. I had similar symptoms that turned out to be curable with treatment of an underlying medical condition.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:23 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a really bad case of this once, and it was because I took antibiotics. Depersonalization and/or derealization are apparently a not-uncommon side effect of antibiotics, and a lot of other drugs.
posted by rada at 10:17 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Something I've found effective for this is engaging two or more of my five senses and really focusing on it. So for example, sit down with a cup of hot tea. Feel the warmth of the cup in your hands, smell the steam coming off the tea, appreciate the color of the tea, taste the tea. Or as another example, hug a pet or loved one. Notice how they feel, smell, how their breath sounds.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 1:10 AM on March 13, 2017

Do you wear glasses some of the time or all of the time? (Not trying to be rude, I mostly wear contacts and sometimes when I put on my glasses I have these types of feelings.) The wall of glass for me is actually, emotionally distancing... Or could there be another, actual physical factor that might be exacerbating this? Something to consider, anyway.
posted by mirabelle at 2:12 PM on March 13, 2017

previously on the green:
The depersonalization/derealization bit will also make things tough. Assuming this is the right diagnosis (and not something like PTSD or borderline personality disorder), this is a very rare condition that most providers have not have explicit training in or extensive experience treating- and if they say they have extensive experience, I'd be concerned that they're overdiagnosing.
dp/dr is rare. get a workup, this one is too hard for the internet to solve.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:34 PM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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