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15 People Share What Depersonalization Really Feels Like

Like a number of mental health issues, depersonalization is a symptom that’s often shrouded in mystery. It is a symptom marked by feeling as if you are observing yourself from outside of your body, or feeling like things around you aren’t real.

While it’s not a term we hear all the time, it is a symptom that affects people who experience conditions ranging from depression to bipolar disorder to schizoid personality disorder — and is more common than we might realize.

Because there is so little information out there about depersonalization, it can be easy for people to fear what they do not know or understand. It’s important to remember people who experience this symptom are in need of understanding and support just like anyone else going through a health-related struggle.

We wanted to give people who experience depersonalization the opportunity to shed some light on what it really feels like, so we asked members of our Mighty community to share what their experience of depersonalization is like.

Here’s what they had to say:

1.It feels like your conscious brain has detached and you aren’t attached to your body. Everything goes dull like a filter has been turned on.” — Kate R.

2. “You feel out of your body, you just feel numb, you feel like an observer… like you’re just watching a movie or a TV show about your life that you don’t have any control over. You just feel like you’re on autopilot. You look in the mirror and see yourself and you just can’t believe it’s you staring back. Everything just feels blank.” — Tayla R.

3. “It feels like you are witnessing your own life behind a glass wall, like nobody sees or hears you, but you can see and hear everything very clearly, even clearer than usual actually. You see your body move and you hear your voice talk but you have zero control over what you’re saying or doing, and then you just keep banging on the glass wall hoping someone would notice you’re not really there inside the body.” — Kira H.

4.You feel like your body isn’t your own body, it’s something strange and distant as a vehicle you don’t drive.” — Natasha C.

5. “Depersonalization for me feels like I’m just now realizing everything around me is life. It’s like I never noticed before. And then like that, I’m lost and I’m not even sure how I actually feel. I feel as if I’m not even here. I’m a shell amongst shells.” — Chanta R.

6. “It’s like I’m underwater. I move, but I don’t think I wanted to. My body carries me through it’s normal motions, while I try to figure out how to come back and take control.” — Jana W.

7. “It’s like no longer being connected to your own body. Your mind is so overwhelmed that it just detaches from reality completely. You question whether or not you’re real. Everything about you is unfamiliar. You look at your hands and wonder whose they are. It’s almost like watching a complete stranger go about their business.” — Vanessa L.

8. ”In all honesty, it’s horrifying. It feels like I’m not in control of my body. I feel like I’m playing out events and there is nothing I can really do about it. There’s a slight feeling of numbness. Feeling fully aware of what’s going on, but I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s almost as though I’m playing out a cutscene and I’m just there for the ride. For me, they’re the worst kind of anxiety attack I can have.” — Toby O.

9. “You’re awake, but you’re trapped mostly in your head. You think you’re in reality, but a lot of time goes by, and when you feel that sudden sense of, ‘Omg, look what month we’re in already?’ You realize you haven’t really been aware. It’s a nonstop cycle.” — Cady S.

10. “Several times in the last couple of years, I have looked in the mirror and legitimately didn’t know who the girl was looking back at me. I couldn’t feel my body. I felt like I was just a void. Scared the crap out of me when I would ‘snap back’ to reality.” — Jessica H.

11. “[It’s like] floating in a bubble just above my own head, puppeteering my body, clumsily, on strings. My physical sensations are dulled, except sounds, which are weirdly amplified and out of sync. I can think clearly as the me inside the bubble, but not as the me in the body. The me in the body feels distant, far away, like another person. My voice comes out but is strange and far away sounding. Everything is going too fast and too slow at the same time, people and cars loom up suddenly out of nowhere and things like traffic are unpredictable. My perception is oddly skewed making spatial awareness and proprioception difficult. I feel like I am piloting my body by remote control.” — Katy P.

12. It’s like I’m standing just behind and a little to the left of myself. I can see and hear only me at the time. Everything else is black and silent. And if I’m in a rage, I can say and do awful things. When I come back, I remember nothing and don’t feel anything about my actions even when told how horrible I was. It wasn’t me who said/did those things.” — Caralyn R.

13. “It’s like being an alien inside your own head, but your body is a machine stuck on autopilot so you’re not controlling much of anything. You see everything, but feel nothing. And when you walk past a mirror, you avoid looking because the person you see in the reflection somehow isn’t you. It’s a hollow unrecognizable shell of a thing you remember, but can’t connect with on any level. It’s isolating too, because even if someone else does notice when you’re going through this, there’s no way in hell they could ever truly understand or relate because they haven’t ever been through this themselves.” — Devin L.

14. “For me it was like I couldn’t focus on anything, like my whole life was a complete blur, like I needed glasses to make it clear again, as though I was there but I wasn’t. The worst thing was that I couldn’t control it. I would look in the mirror and barely recognize the girl looking back at me. You feel unconnected with reality, you just go on auto pilot. It’s really horrible “ — Kerry F.

15. “It’s like the world around me is made of Lego people and the cars are Hot Wheels. It’s like I’m the child who’s in control of how fast the cars move and how the people and trees and houses are all arranged. It’s scary really. Especially because when I finally realize I’m not the one I’m control. I feel so confused about what happened and what I felt.” — Emmy P.

Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.