Feelings of depersonalization/derealization

A severe trauma or being exposed to prolonged, repeated traumatic events can trigger the feeling of being disconnected from one’s body or mental processes or the world. This can include both an altered perception of oneself (e.g. “I am not myself.”) and/ or the environment (e.g. “My environment is far away and distorted.”).


Feeling disconnected from your own thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity

  • Feeling like you are watching yourself from the outside (thoughts, feelings, and body).
  • Feeling like a robot.
  • Being insensitive to sensory stimuli, e.g. sounds, colors, or smells.
  • Having problems to show or to deal with intense emotions.


Feeling disconnected from the world

  • Feeling as though the world or people are distorted or not real (e.g., having the feeling to be in a movie).
  • Experiencing the world like “behind a veil or fog”.


Associated responses

  • Having difficulties to express your experiences and fear that other people don’t understand them or call you crazy.
  • Being afraid of losing self-control.
  • Having difficulties with your memory and, for example, being unable to remember the trauma at all, or only in fragments.
  • Having diffuse physical symptoms such as head pressure, tingling, dizziness or numbness.



Reality check

  • If you get the feeling that you are starting to disconnect from yourself or your surroundings, try to focus on the here and now. Do so by asking questions regarding your surrounding (“Where am I right now?”, “What do I see, smell, or hear?”, “Who else is present?”).


Further tips

  • Have something spicy or sour to eat in your pocket.
  • Turn up some music or clap your hands.
  • Smell on a fragrant scented oil or tiger balm (can be obtained at a pharmacy/ drug store).
  • Take a cold shower.
  • Try to get moving (trampling, running up and down stairs).
  • It’s important that you discuss all these strategies with your friends and family beforehand so they can support when it happens.