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Depersonalisation and Derealisation belong to a group of sensations known as Dissociation. This is not to be confused with dissociative identity disorder which effects less than 1% of the population. (This disorder has a number of different symptoms to that of anxiety disorders including amnesia)

Dissociation is also known as a 'self induced trance states' or 'altered states of consciousness'. The ability to dissociate is on a scale 0 -10.

0 = people who do not have this ability through to 10 which usually indicates dissociative identity disorder. People with panic disorder are about 4 - 5 on the scale and people with panic disorder do not go on to develop DID.

The sensations of dissociation are many and varied. They include the following:


  • feel as if you and/or your surroundings do not seem real
  • experience your surroundings through a diffused light, fog or mist


  • feel as if you are "outside of your body"/ detached from your body, as though you are either standing alongside, above or behind it

Panic Anxiety Management Workshop Videos

Many people with panic disorder report that their panic attacks begin with the experience of depersonalisation and/or derealisation.

The videos include techniques to assist people in learning how to manage their dissociative symptoms as well as their panic and anxiety.

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Other dissociative indicators are as follows :

Many people indicate that they dissociate first, that is - experience depersonalisation and/or Derealisation and then panic or have a panic attack. as a result.

It is interesting to note, that although depersonalisation and derealisation symptoms are recognised as two of the most common spontaneous panic attack symptoms, the ability to dissociate is not mentioned in the main panic disorder literature. Nor is it mentioned that many people dissociate first and then panic or experience a panic attack. There has been speculation amongst psychiatrists who work in the area of dissociation that people with panic disorder do in fact dissociate first, but there has been no substantial research in this area. Which is disappointing. We have been researching this for over 10 years and we know from the feedback from clients and from emails that this is the case for so many of us.

Some of the research shows those of us who have the ability to dissociate, can induce a trance state within a split second. Most of us who have panic disorder are not aware that we are doing this and many of us panic when we move into an altered state. Our research also shows that people can experience an 'electric' shock feeling or a burning heat or a baring tingling heat in these altered states. This also adds to our fear that we are dying or going insane and we panic! Another research study shows that people can experience dizziness as a result of the dissociated states.Most people who dissociate are also woken from sleep with nocturnal panic attacks.

The research shows these attacks happen on the change of consciousness as we go to sleep or as we move from dreaming sleep to deep sleep or back to dreaming sleep. The change in consciousness during sleep, is similar to the change in consciousness we experience when we dissociate during the day.

Some people are frightened of their ability to dissociate other people are not. Some people are aware they have the ability to 'trance ' out, but don't recognise the deeper trance states as being part of the dissociate/trance states.

One of the easiest way people can induce a trance state is when we are relaxed and/or when we are staring: out of the window, driving, watching TV, reading a book, using the computer, when talking with someone. Fluorescent lights can trigger a trance state, so too can our self absorption..worrying about our next panic attack. The more absorbed we become the more we can induce a trance stare.

For more information see also our question and answer section : Dissociation and also in our research study. An Analysis of ancued panic attack. page 7

Bronwyn's books, 'Power over Over', 'Working Through Panic' and the Panic Anxiety Management Videos, discuss and teach people how to learn to manage their dissociation. For more information see 'Power over Panic' or the 'Workshop Videos' in our Book Store


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