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    Old 12-07-2003, 08:56 PM   #1
    Sanguine
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    Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    Hi everyone,

    I've been experiencing terrible derealization and anxiety for a few days now, and it seems quite severe. Oddly enough, this seems to have started after reading about another person's experiences with major derealization and identifying with it. I've experienced it before to a similar degree, and it's as if reviewing this individual's comments, I was sent back into the same fear I had experienced at that time. I feel like I'm intensely questioning my every thought and consciousness, and it's spooking me a lot more than ever. We've all had sort of philosphical ruminations over our thoughts, our consciousness, the world around us, but I've always been OK with these thoughts. I've always sort of marvelled at the human mind...but something in this woman's discussion frightened me and got me thinking. It's hard to explain.

    I realize that there needs to be a balance b/w your internal and external awareness for it to go away. However, I can't seem to relax, and I was just generally stressed about things when this all started. I basically feel very detached from myself, like I'm way overanalyzing every thought, and the more derealized I feel, the more I overanalyze. It really is a horrible cycle. I seem fine when I consciously throw myself into social activities and other things, but I eventually come back to fearing the return of that feeling...and then it does. I feel like my thoughts, actions, and surroundings are alien.

    I guess I'm wondering if this is just simple derealization? Can it come on this suddenly? Does it sound like something more than anxiety? It's really thrown me for a loop this time (I've experienced it to a lesser degree in the past). The other thing is that I'd been thinking a lot about death in the days preceding its onset as the result of a close family member having a terminal illness. I've been seeing a counselor in part due to this and the general anxiety I've felt. I wonder if that was part of it as well, as death and disconnection had very much been on my mind.

    Any experiences, advice, and reassurance would be very much appreciated!

     
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    Old 12-07-2003, 10:02 PM   #2
    Kid_J
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    Re: Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    Sanguine-

    Well, I am glad to hear that I am not the only one dealing with this. I have pretty mild OCD (mild because I can usually control the intrusive thoughts with a little determination and the blessed 4 steps), and anxiety. Up until about Halloween I had never felt the affects of the OCD or the anxiety, and then one day, it just set in. I believe the culprit to be a bad bout of the flu which caused me to loose a lot of sleep, which in turn caused me to start a worry cycle, which spun around and around until it became this monster in my head. I seriously thought I was losin' it there for awhile, so I saw a doctor, and he diagnosed me with transient anxiety, gave me some Ambien to help me sleep, and sent me on my way. The Ambien helped, I've started sleeping soundly on my own now, but during the day, the anxiety is still there. It doesn't feel transient, though. I cannot say for sure if what I have been feeling for the past month is true derealization, as I do not see things "in a fog", but I've definitely been living life for quite some time now under this curtain of apprehension. And I guess the biggest reason for this is, now that I know what anxiety is, and what it feels like, I am constantly aware of it being there, not being there, etc. It is this overawareness that has really sucked the life out of, well, life. I can put my guard down for a good portion of the day sometimes, but when I am doing something that I enjoy or used to be able to enjoy, it's kinda like it's been spoiled by this feeling that I know it could feel better, but it's not, because of the anxiety. This has been at it's worst for the last week or so. It's Christmastime, I WANT enjoy it, regardless of the normal stress, but it's almost like I am trying TOO hard NOT to feel the anxiety. It sucks, cuz my mind is more than willing to remind me of it every other second. The minute I feel myself forgetting about it, it comes back. I worry without even knowing why I worry. Then my OCD kicks in and tries to tell me "oh you're worried about this", or "it could be that". Seriously, soemtimes my brain feels like it's too big for my head and that if I don't sit and ruminate, my mind is just gonna break. I know this will not happen, and once I get a handle on the fact that it IS just anxiety, I calm down, and the day goes on. It's SO tiring though. They say the best thing for anxiety is just to go with it, go with the flow, get used to feeling. Honestly, I really think I have been doing this, but sometimes it just doesn't help. My OCD tells me to pay attention and DEAL with the anxiety, or else it's gonna get worse. However, when I do try and sort things out, it just gets worse. I feel your pain, I really do. I'm not on any meds, don't feel like I should be on meds. A month and a half ago I was fine. For 25 years I've been fine. I feel like I've done this to myself and should be able to reverse it myself. The hard part is wading through this irrational fear and just living life. I have to try and find that groove that I was in for so many years before the anxiety descended. So I continue to recognize the anxiety, but not let it rile me up too bad. Reading your post gave me a boost of courage, cuz I know there is someone else out there dealing with the same issues. Take care of yourself, and let me know how you are doing throughout the week.

    Best wishes,

    Jeff

     
    Old 12-07-2003, 11:34 PM   #3
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    Re: Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    Thanks for the reply, Jeff, it was definitely reassuring. Your post was very articulate and did a lot of justice to the anxiety experience. For me, I'd had very infrequent bouts of anxiety since my late teens, but it seems to have really cranked up over the past year, and I'm not entirely certain why. Your descriptions of the kind of tailchasing mental loops that the anxiety sufferer experiences is precisely what I've been dealing with, and I can say from experience that it's the underlying theme in anxiety, period.

    The difficulty with anxiety is that it's resolution requires such counterintuitive thinking. On the one hand, you have a fight or flight mechanism and stress hormones prompting you to "fix the problem NOW", when the true solution to the problem is to just let it be. And yes, the harder you try to escape, the tighter the grip of anxiety becomes. It is like a pair of chinese handcuffs in that respect. The emotional pull to ruminate and solve the problem is very strong, but it's a dead end.

    Anyhow, you seem to have a good handle on it, and you're taking positive steps to improve your situation. Apart from the unpleasantness of anxiety on a day to day basis and the hurdles it presents, there's always kind of a sense of disbelief that this is really happening. It just doesn't fit with that image you have of yourself. You're left wondering what happened to the together person you've always known yourself to be? And I go through the same thought process of, "Man, it's christmas, I just want to be free and happy and enjoy this time of year", which unfortunately sort of piles on to the anxiety.

    Anyhow, I've gotta run, but thanks again. I'll check in later this week...hopefully things will be a bit improved for both of us...

     
    Old 12-09-2003, 09:35 AM   #4
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    Re: Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    Sanguine-

    I dunno if you have OCD or not, I see that you've posted on the OCD board quite a few times, but I gotta say I am constantly surprised by the way this disease works. It's like, once you get over one obsession, and you think you got it all behind you, another one pops up! I'm not sure if it's my OCD or just my sensitized, overanalytical mind, but I've come to realize that my anxiety follows a definite pattern. Once a day, usually when I am at my most "undistracted" (ie, done with work, trying to relax, etc.), my mind starts to cycle. I start to get anxious. Something is trying to get my attention, and my mind says "ruminate on it, dammit, just think about it for awhile, get to the bottom of it, analyze it, give me some closure on what this is all about", but when I do "go there", I find nothing. Just empty anxiety. About nothing it seems. And the harder I try and grasp at the "answer" the more distressed I get that there is nothing there. Is this just another face of OCD? I have never heard of anyone having an intrusive OCD thought about nothing. Like I said before, I'm getting anxious about being anxious. And most of the day I am fine. This only happens like once, and then, once I have exhausted myself to the point of near tears, I can take a deep breath and go on. I have used the 4 Steps to deal with other intrusive thoughts in the past, but it's hard in this case, cuz I don't even have an actual thought, it's just a "feeling". Geez, sometimes I really think I'm goin' crazy. I've never had panic attacks, I sleep soundly, function normally at work during the day and when I'm out with friends or family or doing something I can enjoy, it's been pretty easy. It's just that inevitable daily occurence that's bugging me now. Sad thing is, I'm starting to anticipate it now, and I just wanna have a day where I don't need to worry about it showing up. I don't think I have GAD, Depression, or a Panic Disorder. So, I'm totally repeating myself here, but is this another curve ball from the OCD? I can deal with that if it is. I'm physically in good shape, per my doc. My boyfriend thinks I should talk to someone about this, but since I started the ball rolling in my mind by myself, I really want to believe I can reverse this myself too. Not scared of meds or anything, I just don't think they apply here. If there is anything wrong with me, it's that I think TOO much. Grrrr. Well Sanguine, I hope your week is going along smoothly. Mine's been pretty good so far. If I was a cartoon character, I'd be walking around with big question marks floating around my head is all. Oh well.. I'll live!! Take care, and lemme know if you have any input!

    -Jeff

     
    Old 12-09-2003, 05:33 PM   #5
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    Re: Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    Hey Jeff,

    You know, your case sounds eerily like my own for the most part. I've been struggling off and on for the past year with a sense of confusion as to what it is exactly that brings on my anxiety. For a while, the best way to describe it was a fear of anxiety, or anticipatory anxiety, which it seems you might be experiencing. There aren't any clear thoughts or images that elicit this response, but rather just a sudden fear that you will get stuck in that anxiety cycle again. And more specifically, I tend to get either a strange dizziness with mild heart palpitations (no panic attacks), some adrenaline, combined with recurrent thoughts/feelings of, "uh oh, what's going on here, not this again, etc." There really are no thoughts, images, or scenarios otherwise that are bothering me -- and I think that's the frustrating and scary part.

    And then as this continues, my concentration starts wearing thin, and it gets more and more difficult to figure out what the problem is, fatigue, confusion, and frustration sets in. I think this is how the worry cycle gets going and grows roots. It's as if that fear of the onset of anxiety with all of its terrible physical and mental symptoms becomes more and more conscious -- until the fear becomes that which you seek to avoid. So, you sort of lose your sense of control or perspective, and you get defensive and resistant (of nothing in particular), and the anxiety begins. Does this sound at all familiar? It's not an easy one to explain.

    Any anxious sensation can get this all started again, in my opinion. And it really is like chasing your tail, or a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are working yourself up searching for a reason or a cause that isn't there...and then it's worse. The worst part for me is a weird feeling that I'm somehow purposely doing this to myself, which isn't really true and feels terrible. The answer is to just relax, let the thoughts and feelings happen, and they will fade. Easier said than done, right?

    You asked about OCD. I think it's possible that I do, but very mildly, in a limited form. It might be to blame for that urge to always "solve the problem" when there isn't anything to solve. But then again, that appears to be a common theme in all anxiety disorders, so there is some overlap. I think I post a lot on that board b/c I identify with the overanalytical, somewhat obsessive nature of the people there as well. I don't have any rituals to speak of. You ask if this is your OCD playing games with you. It really is a grey area b/c all of the anxiety disorders seem to play games on people's minds. But, without panic attacks, depression, or social anxiety, I'd say it has to be a cross b/w GAD and OCD. Both have an obsessive component. So I would say yes. If it feels like a mind game, and you are upset, yes indeed.

    I have no diagnosis nor am I taking any medication. Have you been diagnosed as such?

    Wow, I've rambled on long enough...

     
    Old 12-10-2003, 01:18 PM   #6
    Kid_J
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    Re: Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    Sanguine-

    Don't worry, I didn't think you were rambling. You've helped me so much. This board in general is a comfort. Your posts make perfect sense. It's Wednesday and I've been having a very decent week. I owe a lot of it to you. First of all, it is such a comfort knowing that someone out there not only is going through the same thing, but you seem to have such a handle on it, and you know who it feels. Feeling like I'm not alone is a huge help. I have come to one big conclusion. Over the weeks of trying to beat this thing, having my ups and downs with it, I have come to believe this - it's all about acceptance. And anticipation. Knowing that anxiety might return at any time but having the right mental tools to get over the hurdle. I've learned that trying to face this thing head on is not the way to go. Instead of trying so hard to get 'where I used to be', I've simply been accepting that I can't go back. I am still who I always was. I'm just more alert/sensitive to the OCD. And no, I have never been professionally diagnosed, but there is no doubt in my mind, after all the reading and scouring of the 'net, that this is what I have. Just this morning, I pushed a button my cell phone, which made the display light up. I saw that the battery was almost dead. Well, when you push any button on the cell, the screen will light up for approx. 10 seconds. Suddenly, I found myself plugging my cell phone in to charge it up, but in my mind, I was saying, "If you plug it in before the display light turns off, you'll have less anxiety today." I mean what the heck?!? Now I realize that I do similarly superstitious things like this every now and then, and if that doesn't seal the deal on me having OCD, I don't know what does. It's funny, I said before and I'll say it again, it is amazing how many faces this disorder takes on. My anxiety has been pretty low key all week. I'm aware that it is there, but I just continue on my day, and I can totally handle it. I find myself purposely busting down these barriers that my mind has put up to scare me. I read someone that caffeine and cigarettes makes anxiety worse. Today I drank a Diet Coke and have smoked 3 cigarettes and I don't even see a difference. Not that smoking is good for you, but I was purposely avoiding the 'normal' things in my life, and sensitizing myself to everything out of fear. This just goes to show that these fears are irrational. It's all in my head! They call OCD the doubting disease, and I could not agree more. Even now, I feel like I might be getting too overconfident, and that I am just tempting the OCD/anxiety to come back and screw with me, but getting past that fear is half the battle. I realize now how lucky I am, having read other people's stories, and I am counting my blessings that in comparison to what others are dealing with, my anxiety/OCD is a mild form.

    I hope you have a having a good week so far, and that you are doing your best to deal with your anxieties. I really appreciate all your advice and just listening to my situation. You say that your anxiety got worse after you read someone else's post about their anxiety/derealization. Funny how obsessing about anxiety is like this contagious fear. You're so much like me in that respect. The best way to deal is to not let it be a fear. So what if you feel kinda funny. Go on with your day. The more you tolerate it's presence, the less presence it has. I can't say I am completely 'over' this, cuz I am still checking the board now and then, but I truly think I am on my way. I used to be afraid that this whole experience would "haunt" me too, and that everytime I would start to feel better, I would remind myself of it. If anything, these last couple months will always remain in my memory as a lesson to me. I feel like I have wasted so much time worrying about nothing. Cuz that's what it is. Please lemme know how the second half of your week is going. Until then, take care of yourself!

    -Jeff

     
    Old 12-10-2003, 08:21 PM   #7
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    Re: Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    Hi again Jeff,

    Glad to hear things are better for you. I've also been feeling a bit better after reading some similar posts and studies, in addition to trying to remain positive, relaxed, and more focused on my week. It's slowly improving, but that might only be b/c it was feeling like such uncharted territory. One thing I'm realizing is that it isn't the thoughts or feelings that matter, it's anxiety-provoking no matter how you dice it. That's why I think you feel that your OCD and anxiety have so many "faces". It's as if once you've defeated one form of it, it shows up at some later date wearing a different mask. It could be a bizarre OCD thought, a worry about your health, or just that existential "feeling" that I seem to be currently tackling -- they are all very imaginative vehicles for anxiety. And then of course there's the fear of fear itself, which we've both experienced more than anything. The answer is always to relax and accept it, because you always have in the past. Trying to fight it will only make it worse. And you are correct, one of the biggest keys is to keep moving on with your life and going with the flow, even if you're not feeling so hot. Positively reaffirm yourself in every possible way...anxiety and negativity can't survive confidence.

    Indeed, OCD is the doubting disease, and you'd be surprised how many people it appears to affect, even if in limited form. I have a friend who is a major hypochondriac about anything and everything you could imagine. He became worried about AIDS and other illnesses out of the blue (despite being tested again and again for HIV, all negative). As he became increasingly anxious over several days, the anxiety and obsessive thoughts physically manifested itself in a persistent tingling in his legs, plus dizziness, and some depression. He figured these were signs of some terminal illness, and so the anxiety persisted...and the tingling and depression got worse...and so did the obsessive thoughts...and then the anxiety got worse...and you see the downward spiral. He finally realized that when he was occupied with work, the tingling was gone. His health anxiety will resurface again, as it has in the past, and it is a form of OCD. But again, no matter what shape anxiety takes, if one stays with the fear long enough and see it through instead of resisting the thoughts, it eventually fades.

    I was reading an interesting psychiatric article on OCD a while ago. It made the analogy that OCD is exactly like an autoimmune disease of the mind. So, just as the body can suffer from an overly sensitive immune system, designed to keep it out of harm's way, so can the mind when the fight or flight/risk assessment parts of the brain overreact. I found this a very effective comparison. OCD causes the mind's evolutionary self-protection systems turn on themselves. But in the end, beyond all of the complex scientific analyses, faith, acceptance, and a good attitude are the simple keys to beating it. And it sounds like you are well on your way. Keep up your strength, and stay confident.

    Keep me posted on how the remainder of the week goes...and any other insights. Take care.

    Last edited by Sanguine; 12-10-2003 at 08:25 PM.

     
    Old 12-10-2003, 10:30 PM   #8
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    Re: Help - Derealization and anxiety driving me crazy

    hi,
    i just wanted to add that i have felt these exact same feelings and thoughts that both of you are experiencing. Kid_J, even to the point of an intrusive thought/feeling of nothing, like you (check out my post on the OCD board from a while back called 'Hi guys, need some advice/reassurance please...'). Sanguine, you gave me some great advice in that post, so I just wanted to wish you luck in getting through this rough patch. Remember how horrible I was feeling when I wrote that post (not even a month ago)? Well, I feel great now! It seems these things come in waves. I was feeling SO horrible one day, then the next I felt like my old self again. Funny how anxiety works.
    Well, i just wanted to let you guys know that it WILL PASS! I know you know that, but just keep remembering that when you're not feeling so great... i 've also noticed that when I'm busy with work, I don't have time to let my mind wander and I'm not so consumed with what I'm thinking or feeling. Keeping busy is the best solution for a little while at least, I think.

    Good luck,
    Julia

    Last edited by Black-Dove; 12-10-2003 at 10:47 PM.

     
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