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Am I mentally ill if I experience depersonalization?

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Practicing since : 2004
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My names Andrew. I'm 25 yrs old, 5ft7" and 13st. I have no history of mental health problems.
When I was young I had an issue fearing that I would turn into someone else, or they would turn into me. Just by someone popping into my head randomly, I feared maybe God would think that it was me thinking I wanted something to do with them when infact the opposite was true. All this was childish nonsense and it stopped around age 12-13. For me, everyone has an "essence" or "energy" they give off which is unique to that person. I feel this with everyone and I appreciate that this is merely my perception but that's just the way I think. This isn't exclusive to people, it's also true with places. Anyway, around March this year, I suddenly had a thought pop into my head. It came with the feeling and image of a guy I went to school with some ten years ago. This was very random. The thought was "I want to be him" which was strange enough but I then started to feel like him. Dismissing this as crazy, I tried to ignore it but the more I did, the stronger the feeling became. I started panicking and thinking, "Have I somehow turned into this person?!" This feeling lasted around two weeks until someone else popped into my head and again, I felt like this person. By now I think I've lost the plot. Forcing myself into thinking rationally, I tell myself it can't be true. Surely God would know these thoughts weren't mine? This one lasted two weeks also until I asked God to give me a sign that this wasn't true by putting a specific song on the radio for me. To my amazement, this song came on. That was it for me, my sign from God. Brilliant. I'd never felt more like me in my life and the relief was incredible. Unfortunately, that evening, these thoughts rushed through my head with even more ferocity than before. I tried ignoring them saying "This isn't true!" in an attempt to dispel my anxiety. The next morning, I was in the bath preparing to go to work for an afternoon shift. I put my head under the water and as I did, another one of these thoughts popped into my head; this time a different person from my past. At this point I should mention these people I feel have no specific relevency as the thoughts were/ are completely random. I tried to shrug off the notion of me having turned into this person as by now the novelty had severely worn off. By this point I was so tired of worrying and being anxious that I felt I couldn't fight it anymore. That day, for a change, someone else popped into my head but this time, I felt thier enery actually go through me. I actually felt like this person for a few days until I tried focusing on who I was in a vain attempt to feel like me again. For me, my truest form is an image and memory I have of me as a baby. If I think of myself as a baby, I feel me as I see myself truely being. I focused on this but as I did, my cousin entered my thoughts and the strangest of all, I actually felt his essence and mine swap from me to him and him to me. This is the strongest feeling so far. I actually feel like him and it goes as far as even when I see my name written down, I get the feeling of him. My memories don't carry the ssamefeelings they did before. It's almost as if I've swapped our energies or essences around. I'd love to sit here and say I fully realise this is being fuelled by my anxiety and by the pure fear of turining into someone else but when it feels this real I just can't. I try to rationalise this by telling myself it's just fear that supports the feeling but the feeling won't go away. This isn't me at all. I can't tell anyone about this as I've got a very responsible job and I'm worried I'm mentally ill. I'm so scared and confused and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I appreciate it's bizzare but it's how I feel.
Many thanks,
Andrew Boucher
Posted Sun, 22 Apr 2012 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Ashish Mittal 19 minutes later

Important points of your query:

1. Early onset of illness with asymptomatic period for years

2. Worry and fear related to having psychiatric illness

3. Multiple symptoms of single illness

4. Not received any treatment for current problem

5. Inability to share problem with others

It is clear from your history that you are probably suffering from OCD). This illness is associated with both obsession and compulsion.

Obsessions are repetitive doubt, thoughts, fears, impulse or images which come into the mind beyond the point of their relevance. Whenever patient tries to stop them they cause anxiety, palpitation, increase sweating and restlessness. Patient would consider them absurd in nature as you have used BIZZARE word for them.

Compulsion occur secondary to obsession. These are mental or some action which decreases anxiety associated with obsession for short term only.

Your problem is not rare. Around 2-5 % of people in world suffer from this problem. But symptoms are different patient to patient. Very effective treatments are available now a days in form of medicines and cognitive behavior therapy.

You need to do following things:

1. Discuss your problem with somebody close to you.

2. Seek psychiatrist help as soon as possible otherwise. OCD can lead to depression

3. Do not worry about illness as it is treatable.

Hope this will help you. I will be available for followup should you have additional queries.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Am I mentally ill if I experience depersonalization? 2 hours later
Thanks for your response and I will take your advice. The thing that's blocking me being able to comprehend that this is not real is the feeling. I can't understand how I can live 24 years being me then suddenly all that memory of how I feel is gone. Is it the case maybe that my mind has swapped me and my cousin around in my head? If this is the case then how do I feel like me again? What is the treatment for OCD currently?
Many thanks,
Answered by Dr. Ashish Mittal 6 hours later
Thanks for your query,

As you are having obsessive images it is associated with moderate to severe anxiety. Apart from that you appear to have obsessive doubt of being yourself. In anxiety it is possible to feel that you are not yourself but somebody else for transient duration (depersonalization). As your primary problem is OCD you need treatment for it to relieve from suffering.

For the treatment of OCD medicines and cognitive behavior therapy are effective which you can discuss with psychiatrist depending on suitability for you.

Wish you good health.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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