People have described depersonalization as a “bad trip” where you feel disconnected from your body and thoughts. Nothing feels real, and it’s like you’re living in a dream.
Marijuana can trigger depersonalization, particularly in teenagers and young adults. This “bad trip” can last for weeks or even months, in some cases. A Psychology Today report details how a teenager can be prone to depersonalization and derealization, an associated disorder, off one hit of marijuana.
“A teen smokes weed and ends up with a disturbing experience of an alarmingly strange shift of existence. Losing reality and the old familiar self, and finding oneself in a changed, removed world of frightening unreality,” statesPsychology Today.
Yes, marijuana-induced depersonalization is more common than you think.
Read on to learn more about depersonalization disorder and its connection to marijuana and how to overcome it.
What is Depersonalization?
Depersonalization and derealization fall under the umbrella of dissociative disorders. Hence, they are grouped to form the clinical term depersonalization/derealization disorder (DPDR).
According to Psychology Today, DPDR is an altered state of identity and self-awareness where one feels separated from themselves, their surroundings, or both.
People are diagnosed with DPDR if feelings of detachment occur often, cause anguish, and interfere with one’s quality of life reports Psychology Today.
Depersonalization symptoms manifest as being detached from the body, feelings, mind, and/or sensations, according to the Merck Manual. People with depersonalization can feel like outside observers of their own lives.
The Merck Manual adds that patients with depersonalization report feeling like a robot where they have no control over what they say or do.
“They may feel emotionally and physically numb or feel detached, with little emotion. Some patients cannot recognize or describe their emotions (alexithymia). They often feel disconnected from their memories and are unable to remember them clearly,” states the Merck Manual.
When someone has derealization, they feel a sense of detachment from their surroundings, including people and objects, where it all feels unreal.
Marijuana and Depersonalization
The exact cause of depersonalization and dissociation is not clear. But risk factors are associated with DPDR like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or past trauma.
Depersonalization can also occur alongside mental health disorders such as PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy, according to Medical News Today.
People who smoke marijuana or use other substances such as ketamine, alcohol, and hallucinogens may also experience depersonalization.
Smoking marijuana does not cause depersonalization. According to Psychology Today, depersonalization can occur after someone smokes their first joint or after months of using marijuana.
“However, very many people with depersonalization develop it for the first time after using marijuana. Most frequently this happens during adolescence and young adulthood: between 12 and 28 years of age,” states Psychology Today.
How to Overcome Depersonalization
Though depersonalization symptoms can be extremely horrifying, it is a disorder that is still rooted in anxiety, states Psych Central. Overcoming depersonalization involves lowering your stress and taking your mind off intrusive thoughts.
Psych Central reports that following these tips can help you overcome depersonalization:
Reading out loud: Reading out loud can refocus the mind away from the interfering thoughts that come with anxiety and depersonalization. Reading out loud keeps your brain busy and focuses your concentration, which reduces feelings of depersonalization, reports Psych Central.
Filling your mind with music and podcasts: Feelings of anxiety and depersonalization tend to get worse when you have idle time. The best way to counteract those thoughts in your spare time is by listening to some music or podcasts on your smartphone, says Psych Central. Find your favorite music or podcast streaming service on your smartphone and power up.
Not using marijuana or other drugs: Marijuana and other hallucinogenic drugs can trigger depersonalization symptoms. So, avoid them altogether. With the legalization of weed, more and more people are using it to unwind. However, if you have an anxiety disorder or DP, smoking marijuana will only make symptoms worse.
Going to bed early and waking up early: Why? Sleep loss and bad dreams often occur with depersonalization. Establishing a healthy sleep pattern can reduce your anxiety and allow for recovery from DP, states Psych Central.
Doing hobbies and activities: Again, participating in your favorite hobbies or pastimes can fill your spare time with productive activities. Going to the gym, playing a sport, or learning an instrument can take your mind away from the feelings and thoughts that come from depersonalization. While anxiety and DP might make it tempting to shy away from activities, it is vital to take part in them anyway. According to Psych Central, “When you do the activity anyway, it registers in your brain that you were able to complete the task safely, despite the anxious feelings. This is much the same as Exposure Therapy, and is a vital step towards eliminating unwanted anxiety.”
Stopping your caffeine intake for a while: Caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda, and energy drinks can ramp up feelings of anxiety and DP. Does it mean you have to ditch the java? Not quite. “If you’re a coffee lover, don’t worry — you can get back to it once you recover. But for the moment, you want your body and brain to be in as calm a state as possible — so cut caffeine out of your diet completely,” says Psych Central.
Not overreacting: With depersonalization and mental health disorders, there are good days and bad ones. To deal with these changes, you should not overreact to them. You should not get too down on yourself if you experience profound anxiety and depersonalization symptoms. Conversely, you should not get too excited if those symptoms appear to have gone away completely. Just continue with your life as usual. In doing this, you are telling your brain that those anxious feelings are not important, which can effectively counteract depersonalization and anxiety, says Psych Central.
Getting out there and socializing: When people struggle with DP, they may be anxious when they have to talk to others. They also may have trouble remaining engaged in conversations. Still, it is unwise to avoid social situations altogether. Instead, you should spend time with friends, family, and coworkers because they can fill your mind with positive and constructive thoughts, according to Psych Central.
How Professional Treatment Can Help You
If depersonalization from marijuana has been an issue, a treatment program administered by professionals can help you address the addiction and the co-occurring anxiety that comes with it.
A dual diagnosis program treats the marijuana abuse and co-occurring mental health issues so that you can achieve sustained success in recovery.
While each dual-diagnosis client is different, we offer evidence-based therapies that have been proven to treat substance abuse and mental health issues effectively. Those services include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
With dual diagnosis treatment, you learn coping skills, mental health education, and long-term planning strategies, along with the benefit of receiving two treatments through one program.