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Derealization Makes People Check Out Of Their Bodies

Derealization is a phenomenon in which a person thinks the things around them are not real. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant. Many things cause this feeling. Whether it has to do with trauma, an out-of-body experience as a result of drug use, a person in the midst of mania and psychosis, or somebody who is experiencing a high episode of anxiety, the experience of derealization feels quite real to them. In this article, we’re going to talk about the causes and what can be done.


People who have been through severe trauma often check out of their bodies. They don’t want to feel pain; the pain is something that happened to them in their physical body. When a person doesn’t want to feel distressed, they can check out their body, which is an example of derealization.

“I am not here.”

Imagine if a person had surgery, and they didn’t like to be around hospitals. Now, they have to visit a friend of theirs who is ill. When they enter the hospital, they start shaking in fear. They do not want to be there. The next thing that happens is they begin to feel as if things are not real. They float above their body, and they’re looking at themselves from a bird’s eye view. It’s a gross feeling for them and can be very frightening.

Undergoing surgery

Speaking of hospitals, people who go through surgery can experience feelings that things aren’t “real.” I know a woman who had an endoscopy, and when she woke up she didn’t feel like what was surrounding her was there. She felt like things were surreal. What she went through when they were looking inside of her stomach and she was under sedation was probably traumatic.


No matter what the cause, people who are experiencing derealization disassociate from their bodies. Disassociation can be scary. When you hear people talk about an out-of-body experience, sometimes they’re referring to disassociation.

What helps with disassociation?

Disassociation is a form of denial; you want to pretend like things are not happening. You can use mindfulness to bring yourself back into your body. When you start to feel like you’re checking out, self-awareness will help you feel better. Bring yourself back into your physical body. When you have a technique to help yourself come back to your center, you will feel less scared and less disassociated.

Why am I feeling this way?

Likely you were triggered by something. When somebody is frightened, a lot of the time and it has to do with the fact that something happened that reminds them of a traumatic incident, then a triggered response may occur as a defense. The body sends the message that you need protection. One of the ways to do this is to pretend things are not happening and they aren’t real.

Derealization and mental illness

An example of a mental illness that has the derealization symptom is DID or disassociative identity disorder. It is one of those conditions where people report checking out from their bodies. Sometimes the derealization results in somebody with DID switching into another alter, or part. Severe traumatic incidences cause this part of DID.

Getting help

Whether you’re working with a therapist in your local area or an online counselor, you can get through experiences of derealization. I know it can be scary to feel like things aren’t real, but the more you want to understand what’s happening, the better chance you have of working through these experiences, developing a healthy social life, support system, and living well.

Getty photo by Victor_Tongdee

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