DPDR stands for depersonalization and derealization. DPDR is an anxiety response to extreme stress. It makes sense that DPDR is a common benzo withdrawal symptom since the body’s calming mechanism, the GABA receptors, have been downregulated from the drug. DPDR feels as if you aren’t in reality—things appear foreign, surreal—as if you are watching yourself in a dream or movie. Your arms, legs, and body may feel detached, and the sense of being trapped in such a state may be panic-producing. DPDR can feel as if you are losing your mind. You aren’t, of course, but it can be a scary and uncomfortable experience.

What are some good coping skills for DPDR? 

  1. Acknowledge what you feel. Remind yourself that what you are feeling is a normal stress response. You are safe, even though the world may appear very unnatural. 
  2. Use your breath. Under stress, we tend to breathe shallowly or quickly. Slow down your breathing. Use 7/11 or box breathing. 7/11 breathing is an inhale to the count of seven and an exhale to the count of eleven. Box breathing, for example, is inhaling to the count of four, pausing to the count of four, exhaling to the count of four, and pausing to the count of four.
  3. Listen to soothing music without lyrics. “Spa” music can be very soothing.
  4. Observe your thoughts without any judgment and let them pass. Please don’t get caught up in them or believe any negative messages.
  5. Call a friend or family member for support. 
  6. Use your senses to get grounded. What do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel?
  7. Focus on one object and identify what it is and what you know about it. This is an easy way to distract yourself.
  8. Learn something new. YouTube is an excellent tool for learning. Learn to draw, knit, play an instrument, etc. You’ll distract from the DPDR, learn a new skill, and get a dopamine boost in the process! 
  9. Take a bath or shower. Water can be calming.
  10. Get a Swedish massage—light stroking and effleurage. (Deep tissue or trigger points can increase withdrawal symptoms.)

DPDR eventually fades away as the brain and nervous system repair themselves. It is a temporary condition brought on by the benzo damage to the GABA receptors. As uncomfortable as DPDR can be, it is a common, relatively benign benzo withdrawal symptom. I had intense DPDR at various times during my withdrawal and recovery process. I didn’t like it—it often felt like I was tripping on acid—but it faded away like all my other benzo withdrawal symptoms. Now, I can barely remember how it felt. You, too, will move past your benzo withdrawal symptoms and begin to forget this challenging chapter in your life. You will be happy and healthy. You will thrive! 

Please feel free to share your experience with DPDR and how you cope in the comments.