Depersonalization is one of the most disturbing and hard to grasp anxiety symptoms. The feeling of being outside of yourself, “slipping away”, or “losing touch with yourself” can be quite frightening. If one of the most commonly reported anxiety and panic related fears is going insane, depersonalization would be the number one trigger of that fear.
(If you haven’t seen the previous episode discussing derealization, you might want to check it out first.)
I like to think of depersonalization as nothing more than a temporary change in the way my brain is perceiving itself, and me. Processing your perception of yourself is something that normally happens silently in the background and I envision depersonalization as the shifting of that processing into the foreground – where it doesn’t belong. This is strange, odd, unfamiliar, jarring and disturbing …. but not dangerous.
In the end, as frightening and disturbing as it is, depersonalization in the context of anxiety disorders like panic disorder or agoraphobia is just another symptom. In the end, the goal is to learn through experience and repetition that you don’t have to like it, but you also don’t have to fear it. Working on letting it happen without fighting, struggling, or trying to escape it can go a very long way toward limiting its impact on your life.
I can say from personal experience that when I recognize depersonalization, immediately going slack and shifting my mind into “neutral” almost always means that its going away pretty quickly. Here’s the bonus to that … even if it doesn’t I am totally OK with that. Even if it lingers for some time I can go about my day and engage with the world and 9 times out of 10 that engagement will be what “flips the switch” to brings thing back to a more normal place.
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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)