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What Do I Do about Not Feeling Real?

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From a teen in the U.S.: I feel like life isn’t real. I live with my boyfriend and my best friend in an apartment. Everything is good. Nothing major has happened in my life that is really traumatic. Lately I just feel detatched from the world. I’ve felt like this before. I’ve felt this come and go since I was about 14, but I never thought too much of it. I just thought logically and I let it go even though I knew it was there.

But lately I have felt different. Somewhat dazed and not connected with reality. My boyfriend and I will be having an amazing week and a great conversation… but it won’t feel real. And I want it to so bad. It feels like I’m stuck in a dream state.

I’ve never been addicted to anything. I’ve never touched drugs and only drank a few times with family and even then it was only a little wine. I used to know how to cope with this and I knew how to handle it. It’s all been so hard to grasp onto it, I used to have such a good grip even when I felt it. I don’t know what’s going on. My family on my mom’s side all have mental illnesses, my mom has to be the worst though. She has depression, 3 different types of anxiety (I believe), PTSD, ADHD and borderline personality disorder. What should I do?

What Do I Do about Not Feeling Real?

Answered by on -

A.

Persistent feelings of disconnection from oneself is called derealization. Everyone has moments when they feel this way. But when the feelings are recurrent and distressing, it can lead to derealization disorder.

However, derealization is usually triggered by trauma or the use of illegal drugs. You report that neither is part of your history. Another common trigger is anxiety. It’s possible that an untreated anxiety over time can result in the feelings of disconnectedness. Complicating things further is that anxiety about the feelings (anxiety about the anxiety) can cause symptoms to be worse.

One other possibility is that a person has an unrealistic idea about what to expect from life. Our satisfaction with our life is a function of our expectations. If expectations aren’t being met, people sometimes mistakenly assume that there is something wrong, that things aren’t “real enough”, not that they expect too much or too little of life.

Without talking with you, I can’t assess which, if any, of these possibilities apply to you. I therefore urge you to see a mental health professional for an evaluation. What have you got to lose except an hour of your time? It may be that such a meeting will find that your feelings are quite normal for your age and that you will gain peace of mind. It could also be that you have more anxiety than you are aware of and some treatment will be recommended. If so, you’ll have a better understanding of yourself and you will know what you need to do next to help yourself.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

What Do I Do about Not Feeling Real?

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). What Do I Do about Not Feeling Real?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/01/26/what-do-i-do-about-not-feeling-real/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 Jan 2020 (Originally: 26 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 Jan 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.