Derealization is a disassociative symptom associated with some forms of mental illness and neurological disorders. When a patient experiences this symptom, he or she feels distanced from the surrounding environment. This is not dangerous or harmful, but it can be unsettling. A number of techniques can be used to address this symptom, ranging from stress management techniques used while it occurs to help a patient stay calm to psychotherapy or medical treatment to address the underlying disorder which is leading to the sense of distance.
This symptom is closely related to depersonalization, in which people feel distanced from themselves. Someone experiencing derealization might feel like his or her surroundings are fake or staged, or experience deja vu in a location he or she has never been in. People can also experience jamais vu, in which a familiar place seems totally strange. Objects may seem far away, flattened, or hazy, and the patient often has trouble articulating the experience, which can make it hard to identify when a patient tries to communicate with a doctor or therapist.
A number of psychological conditions, including anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and simple sleep deprivation, have been linked with derealization. People with certain types of brain injuries and progressive neurological diseases can also have this symptom. They may also experience dizziness, confusion, or nausea, or it can be experienced on its own.
When patients start to feel a sense of detachment, they can use stress management techniques to fight the feelings of stress and unsettlement. Some patients find that it helps to breathe deeply, close their eyes, lie down, or talk to another person in the room, and individual techniques can be developed by a patient and psychotherapist together to handle the problem as it arises. Psychotherapy or treatment for neurological disorders can help patients address the underlying condition which leads to derealization, which will reduce the incidence of this symptom.
Patients should be aware that this symptom is very common, and in fact expected with many conditions. Having this experience does not mean that a patient is losing a grip on reality, or that his or her condition is growing worse. Some find that it helps to talk with other patients who are experiencing this symptom so that they can compare management techniques and grow accustomed to the idea that it is very common and normal for them to experience temporary perceptual disturbances.