Fearing That I Am Schizophrenic

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

2 Weeks ago I was sitting on the couch watching tv. and all of a sudden I felt unreal. Like I was detached from reality.. my whole living room became a picture. and I started having a panic attack. And it has been straight like that ever since. I was sooo out of reality that I didnt even know what was happening around me. I have felt fake and unreal for 2 weeks now. It dosent go away.. and when I am having fun an trying not to think about it.. its always in the back of my mind that I am a schizo and that everything is crazy. Please help me ! I cant get an appointment with mental health until next week sometime. I don’t know what to do in the meantime.. I’m pacing around my house out of breath all day. I’m shaky and in a panic. it wont go away!! And my chest has been aching. Please halp me.. Also.. time has been flying by.. I remember everyting I have done.. but as soon as im done doing it its like it was fake and it didnt actually happen. I remember the visuals but not the feelings. I am horrified.

A. What you have described seems characteristic of depersonalization or derealization. Neither are symptoms of schizophrenia. Individuals who have experienced depersonalization describe feeling as though their body is unreal or that they are an external observer of their body. Other common phrases used to describe the experience of depersonalization, include “robot-like,” “puppet-like” or “acting a part.”

Derealization is the feeling of being detached from one’s environment. Both depersonalization and derealization are associated with high levels of stress, anxiety, a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse and illicit drug use, particularly among those who have used or are currently using hallucinogenic drugs.

I am assuming this is the first time you have had such an experience. Individuals who have chronic episodes of depersonalization may have depersonalization disorder. Depersonalization disorder is part of a larger group of disorders known as dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders are mental health disorders that are characterized by disruptions in memory, consciousness and perception. Depersonalization and derealization may also be symptoms of physical health disorders including epilepsy or other seizure disorders.

I am glad you are being evaluated by a mental health professional. You should also consult a medical professional to rule out a physical health problem. Try not to be alarmed. For many people, their symptoms simply disappear on their own. For those who continue to experience symptoms, psychotherapy is the main treatment approach. Medication may also help. There is no specific medication to treat dissociative disorders but anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications can provide some relief. I wish you the best. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). Fearing That I Am Schizophrenic. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/27/fearing-that-i-am-schizophrenic/