Depersonalization is the state of not feeling like oneself or feeling alienated from one’s own behavior. Panic attack patients say that they feel they are watching themselves from outside of themselves which is a good description of depersonalization.
One panic attack patient felt a constant state of depersonalization. He never believed that he was inside of his own perspective, but instead felt he was always outside of himself. He always knew reality from unreality, but he couldn’t shake this strange feeling. He was very distressed by his state of mind and spent a lot of his time obsessing about his depersonalization.
His hands and feet felt bigger than normal, and he believed he was dragging himself around. To look at him, one didn’t notice any abnormalities. He was not a schizophrenic nor did he have a dissociative disorder. He was sent to a neurologist who ruled out migraine headaches, brain tumors, and such. An internist insisted the patient didn’t have hypoglycemia or hypothyroidism.
Finally, it was concluded that the patient had a panic disorder with depersonalization. He refused any medications and stopped psychotherapy so he couldn’t be treated anymore. Most people don’t have such extreme cases of depersonalization. Panic attack patients go in and out of periods of depersonalization that is consistently associated with panic attacks themselves.
If you experience depersonalization, the best way to treat it is to assure yourself that everything is OK and you will be yourself soon. Fear can drive you into feeling spaced out and not in your body. If you sit down and hold on to a solid object like a wooden table or something similar while you take deep breaths, you will soon feel like yourself. Hardly anyone continues to feel depersonalization for very long.
Depersonalization should not be confused with derealization which is a feeling of unreality or altered reality to which panic attack patients are subject. Sometimes people feel they are in a dream or in another dimension. They feel what is happening is not real.
Schizophrenics or those with drug reactions can suffer from derealization as well. A panic attack patient is especially frightened of derealization because she is trying to hold on to reality as strongly as possible and it seems to be escaping from her.
Most panic attack patients are extremely fearful of losing contact with reality, so they don’t drink or take drugs in the first place. Thus when the experience derealization, they are more upset than anyone else. Fear itself can cause the body to secret chemicals that make a person feel spaced out or unreal.