Everything Around Me Seems Unreal

Reader’s Question

I was diagnosed with having Bipolar III in April. I have apparently stabilised from the manic psychotic episode I had and so recently started building my hours at work back up. But over the last few weeks I’ve been spending more and more time feeling disconnected from what’s going on around me.

My head tingles and body goes numb daily and intermittently. Sometimes I don’t recognise the sound of my voice, although others say it hasn’t changed.

Things just seem so meaningless and pointless and I can’t help thinking that maybe the world around me is in fact a figment of my imagination. I also can’t work out who to talk to about how I’m feeling — who out there is actually properly in touch with reality and not just playing their part in the mass jigsaw puzzle/computer game.

Sometimes everything around me feels really unfamiliar or unreal.

I don’t know what to do anymore.

Psychologist’s Reply

When you describe that you have stabilized from a manic episode, you didn’t describe how that was accomplished. Most recovery from manic episodes require the use of mood stabilizing medications. We have used Lithium in the past and currently have several other medications that have proven very effective.

Some of the symptoms you describe, especially the physical symptoms, may be related to medications. Many medications influence our ability to focus and concentrate, giving us a sense that we’re not totally operating in the real world.

More seriously, while you may have recovered from the manic mood (elation, hyperactivity, grandiosity, etc.), you not have fully recovered from a thought perspective. In your description, you are moving in the direction of a delusion — a collection of unrealistic thoughts, ideas, beliefs, interpretations, and perceptions. Your report that your world may be in your head and others around you may be part of a mass jigsaw/computer game is strongly moving toward a delusion. Left untreated, your brain will continue to exaggerate that theme to the point that you’ll begin thinking your surroundings are computer generated and someone or something is trying to control your thoughts. This is a very common delusion and has increased over the years with the popularity of the “Matrix” movies. Delusions often incorporate popular themes in a person’s culture or experience. In clinical practice, I’ve already seen folks with delusions connected to the use of an iPod and Bluetooth technology.

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It’s very important that you seek consultation with a psychiatrist and discuss not only the physical symptoms but the thoughts and perceptions as well. I’d also recommend reading an article on my website entitled “Chemical Imbalance” as it discusses how brain chemistry changes to produce delusions and other serious symptoms. It’s very possible that a medication change or an additional medication will correct those symptoms.

I must also stress that you act quickly. If you are already under the care of a mental health professional, contact them and discuss your situation. Mental health treatment is the key to this situation.

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