Depression & Derealization

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Many strides have been made in better understanding depression. It was a long struggle for those who have never suffered from the condition to understand that is more than just deciding to be happy (though Cognitive Therapy has shown that intentional positive thoughts make a very effective strategy for combating depression). One of the most surprising effects of some depression is a syndrome called derealization. In severe depression, this side effect can be disorienting or even terrifying. Here is a look at how derealization presents itself, and how it plays off depression:

What is Derealization?
Derealization is a departure from our perception of the normal, solid form of the world we know. This may happen with hallucinations within the five senses: blurry or other vision distortions; auditory hallucinations, or the lowering or enhancement of certain sounds; strange taste sensations or a change in the flavor of foods; a numbing or enhancement of certain sensations on the skin or the feeling of phantom touching; or scent enhancement, elimination, or imagined smells. It may be a feeling that the world around you is not real, though everything within it seems to be that way. It also may be a manufacture of false memories, a lapse in memory or time, or a jumbling of the order in which things happened, especially traumatic or emotional events in the past that feel like they happened recently.

How are Depression and Derealization Linked?
Often, derealization is the brain's coping mechanism to compensate for severe emotional stress or grief. This can happen for brief interludes during a traumatic event, in which case it is a part of PTSD. If it is a part of a long, ongoing depression, then the derealization is a coping mechanism for the unrelenting grief, sadness, anger and other feelings that accompany your depression.

How is Derealization Treated?
Little can be done for derealization until the underlying cause is addressed. The depression must be eased through therapy, medication, or both before the brain will be willing to face the lapses in reality that it has created. Once this happens, therapists will often help their patients to re-take a safe, objective look at their environment, and to learn more about the real version. Once the emotional pressures are removed, it is often possible to re-make memories or to identify them as false. Though new, correct memories may not be re-made, it can help the brain to normalize in perception and to stop similar situations from happening again. New PTSD treatments such as brainspotting have been used with success to help unwind some of the depression around certain memories, especially those tangled with derealization falsehoods. At times, unwinding the derealization moments can also relieve some of the depression, as they can spiral off of one another when depression gets bad enough.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "Depression & Derealization," in, March 6, 2016, (accessed October 4, 2022).