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!
Lobozzo, J. (2012, August 15). Anxiety Makes You Feel Unreal and Disconnected, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2012/08/anxiety-makes-us-feel-unreal
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
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.
Has no one heard of derealization or depersonalisation? This sounds the same, feeling detatched from yourself and reality, like your in a dream and everything going on around you don't feel part of. It is terrifying, I got it when I was 13 and managed to get get rid of it but have just got it back again at 16. It seems so much worse than it was the first time even though I know it probably isn't. I'm just having more weird and disturbing thoughts, for example I'm getting psychosis because I'm so detached and I'm not going to make it. I cant look at myself in the mirror anymore because it seems like a different face and I also get out of body experiences because of so much panic. All my memories feel like a different life and sometimes I can't make out what are memories and what were dreams. My house doesn't seem like the house I have been living in most my life and my town feels like somewhere else. It's like I'm waking up to a whole different scenery every day, also everything looks unreal and dreamlike. The second I wake up I feel so much anxiety and just want to curl up in a ball and go back to sleep. Im am just trying to be positive at the moment even though it is really hard and I always have something to look forward to which is just being back to normal and back to reality. Anyone else suffering from this you will get better! I still have hope because I done it once before. Goodluck!
when i feel good i can almost look back at all this and laugh like why the heck did u let that scare u u r perfectly fine. i just wish there was a switch to flip and turn it off. i as on prozac and it kept it away for 2 years and then i lost my insurence. feel so blah and like i dont care about anything ;(
Feeling blah is common in both depression and anxiety. It's hard when people can't continue medication that is helpful. While it's not always easy, there are things that we can do to improve despite a lack of medication. Some things that have been helpful for many include keeping a gratitude journal/notebook. Each night before bed, reflect on the day and think of three things, no matter how small, that you are grateful for. Also, it can help to think of one little thing (it's okay to start small, with just one, and increase over time) that you can do every single day that you enjoy. Don't judge it or beat yourself up if you don't care about it right away. Just do it. These are just two things that have helped people overcome anxiety and the blah feelings.
i am dealing with the fear of losing my mind and feelng like it will never go away or will i ever be the same i know i i have beat this fear before but going through it again is not any easier than the first it came out f no where lastnght and im right back in the funk.why is it so hard to just realize wha it is and move on? i hate feeling that i have lost my mind and that im gunna be locked up in a mental hospital. i feel like no one can help me and im just in a downward spiral. can anyone help me?
I am just so scared. I have never felt this unconnected with the world in my life.
Before this I was fine even though I was constantly doubting myself and negative. But I still really did love life. It is a scary feeling what I feel right now. It is just terrible. I just want to cry. Don't know what to do to fix it. Help.
Please know you are not alone and there are many people who understand you. I have felt this way before -- and it does pass. Please be safe. If you need immediate help please call 1-800-273-8255. This is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You are important and you do matter. ((hugs)) Gabe
Thank you Gabe, I just feel real anxious in the morning especially. It is so unfortunate. Every time I think it is getting better I remember how it was before and it just begins again. I feel like I am not in the same world that I was before. People scare me and they look and sound different. Everything is overwhelming. What things should I do to cope or change this? Thanks.
I've been having the same problem for the last 6 months. It just feels like it's getting worse and I can't think positively. I genuinely feel like I'm in a dream, I can't look at my face in the mirror. But you need to stay positive because it will pass and it just stupid anxiety which is making it worse. You will realise because when you are completely distracted in doing something else or having a good time you will be fine. Only until the thoughts of feeling detached come back and then you start to feel it again. You just need to accept it and I will be gone in no time. Just make sure you stay positive and keep making yourself busy. Get well soon! :)
I m nt felling well frm last 1 year fells like i m nt well all the time having headache daily and mosyly whn i go to sleep whn my eyes closed it start happens tht i dnt fell fyn
Nd all my reports are totally clear
Is this is anxiety ???
Hi I posted back in August about my anxiety and it is now mid October still feeling like my surroundings are unfamiliar and unreal but I push myself to go outside or for a ride around the block I find this helps and feels like a victory for that day and the rest of my day I feel like I've beaten it for the moment and that gives me hope for tomorrow. Im in therapy once a week still not on Mets as I'm waiting on a prescribed or my Dr to give me something that works. I hope this goes away and I can feel like I us to and be in tune with the world again
Thank you for sharing your amazing story! I know you might not find it amazing as you aren't quite where you want to be yet, but it is amazing. Despite the feelings of unreality, you are taking charge, making yourself go out, and living in the moment. And beating this one moment at a time is the best, most effective, and possibly the only way to do this. You might find meds helpful (many do), but you might not find them helpful (many don't). Work with your doctor, and in the meantime, keep doing what you're doing!
Thank you and this blog has been therapy to me.reading the posts relating to others sharing experiences I feel part something and knowing I can get feedback from it when I'm depressed and at my lowest point somehow brings me up enough to get through one more day. Thank all of you for that
Hi again George,
On behalf of everyone at HealthyPlace, I'd like to tell you that we're glad you're here with us. This is what we hope our site is -- a place for people to learn and interact and know they're not alone, a place to find solace and tools to move forward. Thanks for joining the community.
Looking at these on here has seriously made me feel so much better like I am not psycho. My anxiety started back in high school when I smoked weed the first time .I had a huge panic attack and I've never been the same. I felt fake and had almost a spiritual experience like I left my body it was terrifying. I got over it. Back then with some counseling and anti depressants but wished I had done it naturally. I had it come back about 4 years later very strong. I was very stressed from work and other things going on I smoked a CIG on break and bam full blown panic attack in the middle of a rush at work felt derealization immediately heart beat trembling it was awful. These attacks came everytime I was at work they got so bad I had to quit my job. I have been jobless now for 2 months. The first month was hard and felt derealization so bad that it affected my personal life and others around me. I have quit doing things I love in fear I might go crazy or it can cause a panic attack. Like smoking I'm scared I'll smoke and have a panic attack I quit cigs 2 months ago and haven't smoked since. Also alcohol and caffeine I heard they were bad for anxiety and have like almost feared them when alcohol was one of my favorite things. Recently I have had this intense phobia of my food or objects I touch being placed with LSD or halucinigens. It scares me so bad sometimes I won't even eat. These fears have made me go crazy and there all I think about I want my life back and to stop having these flashes of feeling unreal like. I have done better but please anyways I can get over this without medication.
I too have felt these feelings many times. It only started about a year ago when I was at work during a many day stretch. I'm 28 now.
I've lost my parents both to cancer over the course of several years. Went hard on alcohol and drugs to swallow the pain and sorrow of dealing with the loss of them both. This all turned out to be pushing these feelings deeper until one day I guess they just burst out in the form of an anxiety attack. I was in the kitchen where I work and all of a sudden I was sweating profusely. I turned white as a ghost and felt as if I was a different person. On this day it had been a few days since I had done any drugs or had a drink. I believe this was reality trying to kick back in when I didn't want it to.
This is not how I felt at the time, but I would later realize this fact once I quit drinking and drugs, started eating right and exercised daily.
I believe this "disconnection" feeling may stem from how the world demands our attention so much every day that we don't stop and take a minute to appreciate what is around us. We constantly stare at blindingly colourful screens that send us millions of bytes of data a second and wonder why out brains are stuck in overdrive.
I know everyone's experience is completely different, but I thought I would just add my experience in case it helps anyone feeling "unreal". Just 15 minutes ago I felt it, and because of these posts it just dissipated. Thank you to everyone. It's good to know we aren't really alone
Hi..my name is sam and this is the second time i have experienced what can only be described as a living hell.....im undee the mental health team and on meds(started 4weeks ago)
Ive had to quit work, spend my days aimlessly trying to fill my time and/or distract myself from these harsh and negative thoughts which bombard my brain constantly, no let up, i dont sleep properly then i wake in the morning with a deep dread of having to do it all over again....i really feel that life isnt worth living atm. I torment myself that if i get thru this my personality flaws will just bring me down again in time so whats the point? That im the one who makes myself so ill, that ill be damaged, not the person i used to be...it crucifies me.
Can anyone relate to this?
I won't say much because you asked if people can relate, and I'd like to leave your comment very open to reader response. I do want to check in with you, though, about your feelings that life isn't worth living and that you don't see a point in trying to get better. Despair can drag a person so low that he/she feels that suicide is an option, often the only option. It isn't. Things do get better. There are many helplines that have people there just to talk. One is The Suicide Prevention Life Line -- suicidepreventionlifeline.org 1-800-273-TALK. Lines like these are extremely helpful and are available 24/7.
I have met with a counselor and a psychologist, and they both agree that this not anxiety. So I am lost...
That is interesting. I of course don't know them and wasn't part of the conversation, so I can't begin to guess what brought them to this conclusion. You are entitled to seek different opinions from any doctor/therapist.
Thank you for your response. Have you heard of this before? And, if so, does it go away? That is my biggest fear of not feeling like my old self.
Hi again Lauren,
Yes, people do speak of similar physical, cognitive, and emotional responses to anxiety. While there are no quick fixes, I do have good news -- yes, this can definitely go away. Working with a therapist is often very helpful. Some people find medication to be helpful (others do not; it's a personal decision that is complex and can be decided between you and your doctor.) There are definitely things you can to to feel like your old self again.
I'm not sure if anyone can help me, but I went to sleep feeling completely fine and woke up the next day feeling as if I had had a stroke. I could not think, it was so hard to catch my breath, my heart was racing, it seemed like I could not see as clearly, and I felt like i was a different person. I had weird numbing/tingly feelings down my upper arms and fingers. This has been going on for a couple of months and no one can figure it out. All tests have come back normal. Its as if I can only focus on one thing and can't think of what needs to get done. My memory is not nearly as sharp as it was. I am so desperate for answers. Could this be amxiety?
I should add that I used to love working out before this happened, and now its like I have no idea how to. Also, it almost seems like there is a block in my brain that is preventing me from having clarity. It's like I do not know how to go about my normal routine and everything just stopped. None of this makes sense. Any help would be appreciated greatly!!
It sounds like you have been thoroughly been checked by a medical doctor, which is very important. There are other professionals who will be able to help diagnose you and help you overcome this. Have you seen a psychiatrist or a therapist? While this could indeed be anxiety, there could be other things to explain this as well. Getting checked out by a mental healthy professional is always wise.
It sounds like you've had things checked out by a medical doctor, which is a good thing. While what you describe could definitely be anxiety, it could be other things, too. It's a good idea to visit a mental health professional, for he/she can talk with you and help you figure out what's going on.
Im james from Phils. My story is this i have develop worst anxiety since high school year 2000, it progresses until college then on my 4years of college i drop out that was year 2004. now im 30 years old. Now last 2012 i wanted to finish my degree so i return university again but it seems i felt nervous again cannot concenrate, cant sleep and always feeling hopeless, which is very disturbing leads me to quit and drop again. What meds will i take to control my anxiety ? I already lost 8years of damages in my life. Im tired of this abnormal emotion for many years please help. I need quick fix if posible coz im tired and depressed.
It makes sense that you are feeling tired, depressed, and ready for something to help quickly. At HealtyPlace, we can't recommend medications because that would be too dangerous. What works for one person might not work at all for someone else, and everyone experiences side effects differently. There are many anxiety medications that can be considered (again, medication works great for some but others can't take it). A doctor can have a very good discussion with you about this. Hang in there. You can get help, and you can get your life back.
Not yet, but it usually takes time. Keep checking!
Hello everyone. I've been really anxious for a while now. About 2 weeks... I have had anxiety issues in the past but have always gotten over them. I feel like it is because I started my career about a month ago and just don't feel real comfortable there... but besides the point.. my anxiety is about me like I'm going to be a bad person and hurt someone and it is SO scary because I am 24 and have never done anything wrong or bad in my life. It seems like I always have these thoughts in the back of my mind lately and it makes me anxious and worried. I want my normal life back and don't want to thibk like that anymore. I have such a good life going with my family and girlfriend and I just don't want to think like this anymore! I know I've had anxiety similar before and have gotten over it but seems so hard right now. Especially when I have a decent day and a bad day after. I've started medication after seeing my doctor and he told me it might get worse before it gets better but I just want to see what you guys say and if it is something that will go away and that it's just thoughts and not something I will ever act on cause I don't ever want to do that! Thanks for all the advice in advanced!
Thank you for stopping by with your comments! I won't say much, as I want to encourage this to be open to others to comment. I do want to say that you are taking a great step in seeing your doctor, and your self-awareness is a great asset. The likelihood of your acting on certain obsessive thoughts is statistically very low. While your doctor is right that things will likely get worse before they get better (that's the case in so many things), you will indeed get better. I hope you get much feedback from readers here over time. Best of luck to you.
I get these weird symptoms like I am dying..i have this immense fear that if I don't do something, sometimes like an OCD disorder, that I will die. I sometimes wake up from a dream in the middle of the night wondering why the dream happened and then thinking that the dream is going to become reality and it is really going to happen and I am going to die. I get weird pains thoruhgout my body and it makes me think that I have a medical condition that no doctor can figure out and it I going to kill me at some point in my life. I need help...I hate feeling this way. please give me some input.
The fears you describe can absolutely be part of an anxiety disorder. Physical pains, too, can be part of anxiety. Still, it is important to have things evaluated by professionals. Have you seen a doctor to rule out medical conditions? And working with a therapist can be very beneficial in addressing the specific things you are experiencing. You can definitely overcome this, especially with professional help.
I ve been feeling this for a year now, i dont feel my self its like am lost, it started with breaking off with marijuana. I need help is there anything i can do
An important first step is to see a doctor to rule out underlying physical causes. With past or present use, it's wise to seek a medical opinion. Then, you'll be able to determine a course of action after you consult with your doctor. Perhaps, too, you will find valuable information in the comments people have left. You're not alone in this!
If using a distraction isn't successful for me I will try my best to sleep it off, but doing so is difficult since my mind is racing. My life consists of sleeping to avoid feeling. I find it hard to get out of bed and do chores or any activities. My anxiety (or so I think it is anxiety) and feelings of depression are controlling me. Which brings me to another thing. I can't seem to control myself on any aspect. I feel so out of control most of the time I just feel the way I feel and can't stop it. I constantly have "visions" or made up scenarios playing in my head that I can't stop. This life is exhausting. I'm just glad I'm not alone. That does make me feel a little better.
You are definitely not alone!
You're not alone I'm going through this right now... I've had anxiety for 8 years and I'm on medication, I've been feeling like this the past week. It helps to read this forum. But being alone is terrifying. .
I am currently experiencing one of my "episodes" as I will call it. I am extremely overwhelmed and feeling helpless. One second I am feeling fine and normal and the next I will find myself drifting away into my mind. I get stuck and start feeling detached from everything, as if life is not even real. But how can that be so when I am right here? I feel like I am about to all of a sudden hit rock bottom like what I thought was real will turn out to be just a figment of my imagination. This comes and goes often. It's as though I am in a dream state where I can't get a grip on reality. I over think and over analyze everything. My chest hurts and my heart beats fast, my breathing gets shallow and I can't focus. Sometimes it's not as bad as other times. On occasion I may be able to pick up my phone and eventually calm down by distracting myself. I'm feeling so unhappy and just want this to stop. I want to feel normal like everyone else seems to feel.
What you describe is commonly a part of anxiety. Have you seen a doctor or therapist? It's a good idea to have symptoms checked out by a professional in order to learn exactly what's going on. Once you know that, you can work with the doctor or therapist on a specific plan to overcome this. You are definitely not alone. It may seem that "everyone else" feels normal, but that's not the case. Forty million people in the US alone live with some type of anxiety disorder! An important first step is to see a doctor or therapist.
KC- I had those same feelings and was over analyzing everything like you mentioned the "why are we humans?" etc. It helped me to be with other people to distract myself while also being very gentle with myself. It was horribly scary. I started saying "Stop" out loud to get my brain to stop going down that weird path of analyzing. You REALLY are okay and keep telling yourself that. Its just a feeling and you can talk back to it. Hang in there. I had some anti-anxiety meds to take til I got back to my old self. Panic free for 13 years now!
Last summer, upon moving into my new house, I experienced my first panic attack with derealization. Of course, at the time I didn't know what it was. It really scared me, and I spent the next few weeks researching and trying to avoid that feeling. Not long after, I started having "philosophical" type thoughts (I guess they were brought on with the feelings of unreality), like "Why are we humans? Why am I here? Is everything just a figment of my imagination?" and other thoughts about the universe and the nature of reality. They are very intrusive and hard, if not impossible, to shut off. I hate these thoughts because they actually make my surroundings and my life feel unreal. Researching my symptoms didn't help much, as I would latch on to nearly every scary thing I read. I suffered from a brief but intense lapse of OCD as a child, and was wondering if this could be OCD rearing it's ugly head again. Now I'm terrified this is the onset of psychosis. This has been going on for a little over a year. Everything feels so strange, and I feel totally disconnected, like I am in a movie instead of my own life. Please help.
Everything you describe can definitely be a part of anxiety. And anxiety can make you feel like you're going crazy; that's a very common fear. Psychosis involves hallucinations and delusions. OCD has very specific symptoms. Have you seen a professional to help you sort this out? Only a doctor or therapist can make an official diagnosis, and once one is made you can work with him/her to develop a specific plan to overcome what you are experiencing. Know that you're not alone in this. Perhaps you can tell simply from the number of comments on this single post that a great number of people experience things similar to what you describe. As horrible as it is, know that you can get better.
I have a friend who is a psychologist that I talk to frequently. She believes it to be anxiety or pure O-ocd. OCD is called "the doubting disease" for a reason, so of course I doubt that too! After having that first panic attack, I never forgot the sensation I had. I thought something was physically wrong (I'd had inner ear problems in the past) and had many tests run which all came back negative. In doing my own "research" (googling symptoms and reading forums) I became even more fearful, and that's when the "existential thoughts" started occurring. Distractions help, but even when I'm doing things that are enjoyable, I start thinking about how weird and sort of arbitrary everything is, and then that fuels the feelings of unreality. I also get lightheaded and dizzy from time to time, with strange vision. Fluorescent lights seem to exacerbate the feelings as well. I just want to feel like my old self again, not constantly analyzing things I will never understand! Thank you for your reply.
Hi again, KC,
I'm glad that you are talking to someone -- and a friend and psychologist wrapped into one sounds like an ideal combination. You have great insight into what's going on within. Insight is so helpful, but sometimes it can work against us too, when our mind obsesses about the insights, it increases the anxiety we want to get rid of. I've experienced something similar, but different, too because each of us is unique. It's a process that can be frustratingly slow, but it truly is possible to be your old self again. Keep learning, talking, and experimenting with techniques that you might find helpful.
Hello, my name is Molly and I think I have been experiencing a panic attack or just anxiety in general. I have always had a little anxiety about health related things, thinking the worst about any little pain I felt, but then one day I just felt like I couldn't breath or that I wasn't getting enough oxygen in my lungs. It feels like I have to take very deep breaths in order to breath enough and sometimes I feel like I can't even do that. It got so bad that I went to the doctor diagnosed me with bronchitis, though I knew deep down that wasn't it. After going to the doctor I had an episode where I really felt like I couldn't breath and that my heart was going to beat out of my chest. We went to the er and I has an xray or my chest and an ekg and I was monitored for about 2 hours. The doctor said that everything looked normal and my vitals were very good and said the only thing it could be was anxiety. Even with him telli ng me that it has not helped and I still feel like a cannot breath and I need to take deep breaths. I have lost over ten pounds in a little less than a week because ibhave no appetite and when I do eat the breathing becomes worse and I feel like I am goi ng to die. I don't want to live like this and I want to know if I will ever feel normal again.
I'm sorry that you have been experiencing these things. You are not alone in what you describe, as you can probably tell just from being here. Welcome to Healthy Place in general and Anxiety-Schmanxiety in particular! You already on the right track to overcoming anxiety -- finding/reading information, learning all you can, seeing what others experience and what helps them get better. I hope you find great posts and great interaction from readers to help you in your journey. As awful as this feels right now, it is absolutely possible to get better and to feel normal again.
Thank you for replying. I am trying to help myself but it is very hard and no matter what I do I just feel like I can't breath or I'm not getting enough it is very scary. Has this happened to other people? Is it normal? I get chest pains now too. The only time I feel okay is when I am sleeping. It is making me feel very hopeless.
Hello again Molly,
Know that yes, this has happened to other people, and yes, it is a normal part of anxiety -- including the chest pains. Please don't feel hopeless, although feeling that way is definitely understandable because anxiety can be so frustrating and overwhelming. Overcoming anxiety isn't a quick process, but it is very possible. Perhaps comments here from other readers might offer reassurance and even suggestions. Keep doing what you're doing -- seeking information and ways to feel better. Be patient with yourself as you work to beat anxiety.