Anxiety Makes You Feel Unreal and Disconnected
Panic attacks suck the reality out of us!
I talked two people down from panic attacks recently and both of them had been worrying that they had lost touch with reality. They felt totally disconnected to the world around them. In talking to them, they were so convincing. I almost believed that this episode was different. But I let go of my own fear for them. (My worry doesn't help anyone.) I quickly assessed that they were not, in fact, psychotic. They were speaking rationally and eloquently.
And I remember from my panicky days how I felt different and disconnected.
And this feeling different and disconnection totally charged up my panic. It went through the roof! Making me feel even more disconnected. This is because anxiety is what we feel when we are disconnected. Anxiety comes from a feeling of separation. That there is something missing in us that doesn't allow us to handle situations. A false assumption that we are different than other people (thus separate).
Feeling Unreal and Disconnected Is a Very Scary Illusion
It feels so much like it is possible we won't come back to ourselves. Like our sanity is about to go off a cliff somewhere, never to return. This is terrifying! And feeds the anxiety. An already huge snow ball, rolling around, gathering yet a wider girth. Intense panic ensues.
If your panic is that intense:
Stop and remind yourself that this is just panic, not death, not psychosis, not a cliff.
Remember: I cannot guarantee much in life, but I can guarantee that things will change, you will not stay here forever. That is impossible. This too shall pass.
Remember: You have most likely been here before and came out the other side, it only feels like this is more intense because it is happening right now. It was probably this intense before and you survived (or you wouldn't be reading this.)
Please tell me what is on your mind!
LCSW-R, J. (2012, August 15). Anxiety Makes You Feel Unreal and Disconnected, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2012/08/anxiety-makes-us-feel-unreal
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
I've had to deal with both of those things. Visiting a new place means a lot of new things to process - taking it in all at once is going to be overwhelming. And some people are naturally more affected by the heat than others, myself being one of them.
The next time you visit a new place, perhaps try going out for only a little bit at a time, and afterwards taking as much time as you need to relax. It may seem inconvenient, but if this kind of anxiety is the hand we've been dealt, there's nothing wrong with doing what's necessary to best accommodate yourself to it. As for the heat, air conditioning should always be your friend :)
I have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) for about 3weeks now. These days I even feel dizzy, is it normal?
Yes, dizziness can be part of GAD. However, it isn't always part of it, and dizziness can be associated with other medical conditions. When it comes to physical symptoms of anxiety, it can be a good idea to check things out with your doctor to confirm that it is anxiety and rule out other conditions.
I'm 42 now. I've been on the razor's edge of sanity for 37 years. I literally have no idea what it feels like to be normal. I don't know what it's like not to genuinely feel like you'll be dead by the end of the day/week/month/year. I don't know what it's like to interact with another person without overwhelming anxiety and panic, actual relationships are unthinkable. I don't know what it's like to go a day without physical pain and the psychological torture of 'knowing' that I'm dying. I can't sleep restfully without xanax and/or alcohol and since I hate doing that, I don't sleep much or well. I haven't felt genuinely rested in over a year and I don't see any end in sight on that front.
I started seeing shrinks when I was in the second grade. I've taken several different kinds of several generations of meds, done CBT, meditation, yoga, exercise, church, diet, supplements, etc. Everything. The sad truth is that for some of us, nothing works and we're stuck in this forever. It's sad and morbid but it's true and selling the false hope that "it can't last forever, that's impossible" is frankly cruel.
I'm very sorry to read what you have been through. Having support is very important in dealing with PTSD and the traumas you have experienced, but I understand that it could be difficult for you to find. It is very possible that there is a Red Cross and Red Crescent organization close to you. This link takes you to the Swedish Red Cross, part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society: http://www.ifrc.org/en/what-we-do/where-we-work/europe/swedish-red-cross/ There, you will find a wealth of helpful information as well as locations and contact information.
Also, while you are contacting the Swedish Red Cross/Red Crescent, you can also go to http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/cope/index.asp. This takes you to a specific page of the National (US) Center for PTSD that has online self help tools. You can also explore the entire site for information even though it's services are primarily for people in the United States, especially veterans. And HealthyPlace.com has a Trauma/PTSD blog like this Anxiety blog: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/
I encourage you to find support where you are, either through a Red Cross/Red Crescent or a different organization if you find one that you prefer. You absolutely can work through this and feel better again.
About 5 years ago I was at university and I had my first panic attack. I put it down to an unoccupied routine, lots of drinking and smoking (tobacco and weed) and the final catalyst being a break up with my girlfriend. Her room was directly opposite mine, so I found it difficult to get over, paranoia seeped in and Voila! I had me a nervous breakdown. For about a week of 2 I couldn't understand for the life of me what it was. A constant need to get up and move, heart palpitations, loss of memory, disconnection to friends and family, a feeling of doom and spaced-outedness, the whole nine-yards. In the end I felt like I was going crazy (either the smoking or alcohol had given me psychosis or a tumour). I actually had to remove myself from University for the final term. It is rightly named 'a living death' because you feel like your waking hours are dominated by nasty thoughts, usually topped off by the nastiest thought of all before you eventually find sleep.. THIS IS MY LIFE NOW... I never considered suicide but there was a whole month where I wished I didn't wake up, which I'm sure a lot of people on here can relate to now or in the past. I would have panic attacks everywhere, someone looked at me funny in H&M once and I came straight home, couldn't get on the bus because I was afraid of my hand shaking giving out the change. It is quite possibly the worst feeling to be consumed by fear . I went to see a therapist who said I had general anxiety disorder, brought on by an undiagnosed case of ADHD when I was younger and the trauma and physical abuse I put myself through at Uni. He advised I take meds but I refused, insistent that my mind was still my own (having a bad perception of medication). My therapist introduced me to something called mindlessness, a form of meditation that brings focus and suggests that rather than tackling nasty thoughts, simply ignore them. Let them slide off you. It was a difficult road but after a month or 2 of practising this I felt a vast improvement and within less than half a year, I felt my old self again. I went from thinking about anxiety every second of every day, to having weeks go past when I hadn't even thought about it. I now refer to that part and time of my life as my 'funny stage' and where it was originally a life consuming terror, I now see it as a good thing, that needed to happen, something to steady my ship in the long run. Nowadays I feel the first onset of fear a mile away and I go through the motions, (closed eyes, breathing, mindlessness) and within 5-10 minutes I'm back and in control. If I'm feeling spacey or tense I ask myself, have I been drinking or smoking too much?. The cognitive and behavioural changes I now make in my life control my anxiety, not the other way around. That's not to say I'm not a different person, I am overall a lot tenser and nervous about certain things but I am now much wiser about it too.
The point of this very long-winded description of my own experiences with anxiety (I apologise) is to let everyone know that overcoming anxiety is always possible. No matter how bad you feel about yourself and the future, there is hope even when you can't see it. It has already been said on here before, finding out first that you are not crazy, losing your mind or going insane is fundamental. The physical symptoms of fear (the fight and flight response) is a nasty blighter, de-realisation is mean, shortness of breath is a bugger (I find it's actually great to use words like this when sorting things out in your head to calm down) but they are all harmless and all there to help you. The best analogy I've ever heard of anxiety and fear is that of the brimming pint glass...
Say a non-sufferer of anxiety experiences something stressful (job interview, relationship issues) water (symbolizing stress) is added, but the levels of water are low enough so it doesn't brim; therefore no breakdown or panic attack. Alternatively, the pint glass of someone whose stress levels are already high could brim when encountered with stress. I always find it helps to think of my stress like this. I go on a 3 day bender, my water feels up, so I sleep, lay off the booze, relax. It might help you to think about this like that :) You may be brimming now, but with the right steps you will get it back to a good level. For me, it was a couple of months, 1 therapy session, a lot of sleep, a lot of meditation, little or no alcohol/smoking. It really depends on whatever works for you, it just takes time to figure it out :)
P.S. I decided to share with you on here because I have recently had a onset of eye floaters that could potentially be with me for a long time, this has caused me a great deal of stress and I feel myself starting to get uncontrollably anxious. I've booked a therapy session and tried calming myself down. I feel very optimistic still despite my worry, that is key I think :) It''s all okay guys, we can defeat this!
You have a wonderful outlook! You are right -- you definitely can defeat this, and yes, we can all be "normal" again! (Well, just because people experience symptoms doesn't mean they're not normal. :D ) You're already being proactive in seeking info, setting your mind on overcoming this, and even starting medication. I'm sure your doctor told you that medication doesn't always work quickly -- depending on the person and the medication, it can sometimes take up to two months to have an effect. Often, it's faster than that, but it sometimes does take that long. Also, sometimes, different medications have to be tried before finding one that works. So just be patient. Don't give up! You also are definitely on the right track with your comment about replacing the negative thoughts. That's the key -- replacing what we don't want with what we do want. It can be helpful for people to practice mindfulness, to pay attention to sensory input in the present moment. That focus can bring the mind back when it races off. Also, noticing your thoughts, checking them for accuracy, and countering them with something more realistic and positive is very helpful. Hopefully, other comments in this thread will spark some ideas, too. Keep your positive mindset even when things are difficult. Outlook goes a very long way in overcoming anxiety!
Thursday morning I drank way to much coffee and no food and then went and did physical labor. Suddenly I dumped sweat. .. could not wipe it away fast enough and I began shaking uncontrollable. The woman who was with me wouldn't allow me to drive bcuz my knees actually felt as if they were going to buckle and the shaking was throughout my body and quite extreme... definitely not a tremor. I felt completely disconnected, like I was in a dream fog and everything sounded as if it were in a tunnel. My mother came and got me, I explained to her that I had 3 cups of coffee and I hadn't eaten. She was immediately on to the hypoglycemic symptoms and got me some food. I had a hard time with the food bcuz I was afraid I would choke, I was careful to walK bcuz I was afraid I'd fall... I've had panic attacks and I know that they are horrible and I know that we have a way of turning each episode into the worse ever... but I'm still stuck in that disconnected feeling. .. 2 days after the onset day...
Being aware of factors that worsen anxiety and panic is really important, so it's great that you noticed the connection to caffeine and lack of food. Caffeine can be one of anxiety's big enemies, as can low blood sugar and/or poor nutrition. As you know, of course, getting rid of anxiety isn't as simple as avoiding caffeine and having a meal. That's why the effects of anxiety, including the disconnected feeling you mention, can linger. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally can help ease that feeling. Getting both rest and exercise, doing enjoyable, stress-relieving activities, deep breathing, engaging your senses (peel and eat an orange mindfully, or go for a walking meditation where you pay attention to sights, sounds, smells, and tactile sensations) are all examples of things you can do to ease anxiety and the feeling of disconnection. These ideas might inspire some of your own!
Seeing your psychiatrist could be quite helpful, given your recent changes. He/she wouldn't necessarily increase the level of your prescription. Sometimes a change is in order, and sometimes even a lower dose of the same medication is needed. Your doctor will work with you to determine what is best. Perhaps you could take your friend or sister with you to the appointment. Even when anxiety and panic flare up, know that it's temporary. Especially since you're so insightful and motivated to decrease it, you can definitely take action to reduce it.
Thank you. You are awsome
Jodi is the one who wrote this great article. She is no longer writing for HealthyPlace, so she's unable to respond to comments. I'm sure she would be very glad to know that you found this helpful.
So for months now I have not been able to feel my body and it feels like part of my body is missing. I also feel such intense feelings of being unreal, unhuman. I basically feel non existent. This started after a sudden breakup. I feel like I am totally gone and don't think I will ever come back. I can't sleep and I am barely functioning. I am getting help but I still feel hopeless. Has anyone had these symptoms before?
Hopefully the fact that this article and all of the comments even exist shows that you are definitely not the only one who feels like this. Anxiety disorders, as well as other disorders, can lead to this experience. You're not alone, and you're not going crazy! Talking to your therapist is a very good idea, and is crucial. Therapy doesn't work well unless people can talk freely and openly about what they're experiencing so the therapist can work with you to find the correct path to wellbeing. And there is a path for you to wellbeing.
I have OCD and I am very worried about the way my brain works or has stopped working. I feel stupid and I can't think straight. I overlook obvious things very often and make ridiculous decisions because of this. I don't even try to solve simple problems because I know that I get anxious and that if I can't solve them, I am going to get even more anxious and start feeling stupid, frustrated and sad.
My dad contributed a lot in me being insecure and more self-conscious about making mistakes and not being able to solve simple task at home like putting a picture up on the wall, fixing the shower of my bathroom, etc., because he acts like he know everything and he is very smart and can do it all. A little bit more than a year ago, my shower got blocked and I wasn't sure what was going on. I first thought there was no water in the house, but it wasn't this and I got very worried because I knew I was going to have to fix it and I didn't want my dad to help me. He ended up knowing about the problem and yelled at me, "come here, the problem was that the shower had sand and rocks inside" acting surprised because I hadn't noticed this. This immediately triggered my anxiety and made me feel stupid. I felt very bad for two days. Things like these have happened to me very often in the last years.
One day, I had several sets of stapled documents that I wanted to dump into the recycling container of my school. I didn't want to throw the papers with staples so I borrowed a staple remover and took each staple off. When I was about to finish, I thought: Why didn't I just cut the corners of the papers off, it would have been a lot faster and easier. That day I could control the ssituation and didn't make a bit deal about it because this happened 3 years ago and I wasn't so traumatized about me feeling dumb yet. The problem is that the problem grew and grew and now I get nervous every time I see a new device in my house that requires thinking to get it working because I get blocked and very anxious. My mind goes blank. For example, my mom got a dish drainer yesterday and when I saw it I got extremely anxious because I started to think if I could make a device like that without help. Then, I disovered it had a tray and I started to get nervous because I wanted to know what it was for. I went blank again and my brain blocked. I decided to avoid checking the drainer carefully to find out the purpose of the tray because as I said, it is terrible for me when I can't solve a problem like this and I can't figure out how things work. This morning, I saw the tray undernreath the drainer putting it in a position so that the water could fall in the sink. This immediately triggered my anxiety again and made me feel stupid for not having thought about it immediately after I saw the drainer and the tray. I didn't even try it because I escape situations like this as I told you to avoid feeling anxious.
I am very worried because when things like these happen to me I start to get ideas in my head, ideas I have got for many years because I am very suggestionable, like feeling itchy mouth like I am hungry or feeling I don't miss my death dog anymore or I can't be anywhere. I get anxiety attacks. The first one of these ideas was the one that made me feel hungry because in highschool I was afraid of putting up weight. This is by far the worst compulsion I have.
Do you know if it is normal for a person with OCD to have foggy brain and to have difficulty thinking straight and solving simple tasks?
I really appreciate your help in advance.
While anxiety is of course personal and can feel different for different people, there are commonalities. Yes, what you describe is common with OCD and anxiety in general. This is once of the reasons OCD is so frustrating. It does interfere with people's lives. You are describing thought patterns that can stop people in their tracks. The good thing about our thoughts is that we can learn to control them rather than letting them control us. There's a very effective approach called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that works on our thoughts. You already have insight into your thoughts, so you're a step ahead of the game before you've even begun! There are excellent books, websites, and even smartphone apps that allow people to go through the process of CBT. That said, CBT is most effective, especially in the beginning, when done with a therapist/counselor. A large number of therapists use CBT because it is so very effective, so the chances of finding one are high. However, if you can't see a therapist, I would still strongly recommend finding books and workbooks on CBT that will help you overcome what you are describing as foggy brain.
Kudos to you! You have already begun the process of becoming unstuck. You are taking medication which, for many people (but not all), helps soothe the brain so you can create and use coping skills to keep getting better. Your counselor and psychiatrist are wise in telling you to do things, because that truly is what it takes. It's difficult, though, because anxiety and depression can keep people from feeling able and motivated to do so. This is only the disorders talking. Many times, when we want to get unstuck, we try to think of huge things we can do or change, but that often makes us more paralyzed. Have you tried thinking of little things you can do each day (and, actually, it's helpful to break the day up into segments) to get yourself going? What are your passions or interests? What feels doable to you? It doesn't have to be fancy. You could just sit in a sunny spot for a period of time and enjoy a cup of tea, one chapter in a book, etc. Pick one space in your house to organize and clean (that does wonders for helping shake off anxiety and depression). Perhaps other readers have their own suggestions and tips in the comments thread. Remember that you've already begun your healing journey, so you do have the power to continue!
i feel guilty..When i am not normal i throw things i shout n cry n lock myself..Then i feel that ws not necessary i overreacted..Is this any disorder or normal behavior??
It's very common for people to wonder if they are normal when they are experiencing something frightening and frustrating. Rest assured that you *are* normal. You are experiencing something that sounds like it is causing problems in your life. The great news is that all of this can improve. It does take time and persistence and often assistance from people like counselors and doctors, but what you are dealing with isn't who you are as a person. Have you considered seeing a counselor/therapist to discuss what's going on? Counselors/therapists can be very helpful in helping sort out what you're experiencing, helping you understand, and working with you on a plan to make things better.
I dont know what made me this but I am nt the same anymore..I had Exam anxiety which turned worse from past few months..Now i cnt study at all..It had turned to somethng worst i dont know wot it is..I dnt get proper sleep during night..If i get sleep i wake up suddenly feeling anxious..I feel my dreams r real n wot is happening in reality is fake..I feel so disconnected..
No one beleives me at all..They say u r doing it on purpose..I cant concentrate on anything..I feel my mind is ever running..I get sleep on unusual times n during night i keep on thinking...Is this normal??
The thoughts and worries you have, including wondering if you are going crazy, are absolutely parts of anxiety and panic for many people. So rest assured, as awful as it is, you are not going crazy! Having felt this before can give you an advantage now; you are more aware of the feelings and can recognize them for what they are (irrational fears and components of anxiety). Also, use it to your advantage. You stated that you have always come out on the other side. That's great! Really think about those times. It wasn't arbitrary that you came out of it. What was different when you transcended it? Pay attention to your successes, and do more of what you did/thought/felt during those times.
You aren't alone. Anxiety can derail anyone. You are on the right track to recovery already, as you are seeking out information. This site (HealthyPlace) has much information about various anxiety disorders, and the forums and comments contain insights from people who live with, or have lived with, anxiety. Look here and on other reputable sites, and learn about what applies to you. Another important step is to have a medical evaluation just to rule out other conditions. Also, working with a therapist can be extremely beneficial. Anxiety can feel completely miserable, but you aren't doomed to living with it forever. The good news is that it can absolutely go away.