I often get asked about depersonalization, so it’s about the time I address it. From the messages I get, some people had their first depersonalization episode after smoking weed, others after physically or emotionally intense period in their lives. But my approach to recovery has nothing to do with the past, if anything, dwelling on the past is a path to more anxiety, so I’ll quickly talk about my personal experience with DP and will jump to my main points.
As part of my anxiety disorder, depersonalization was one of the experiences I had. My first DP episode was something I will never forget. I remember that moment vividly as if it happened yesterday – I got out of the bus, super tense from anxiety, and right in the middle of the street I felt as if I’m detached from my body.
A wave of panic ran through my entire body, as I stopped in shock trying to figure out what the hell is happening to me. This was the first time I had DP episode, which I later learned is just another manifestation of high anxiety.
In my case however, it didn’t grow into a phobia because back then, my mind was already preoccupied with another phobia related to fear of heart attack. But that depersonalization episode certainly made me question my sanity for quite some time until I understood how anxiety works.
In this article I want to give you three reasons on why the worst fear of depersonalization, which is becoming insane, has no evidence behind it.
Reason 1: Neurosis vs Psychosis
Unfortunately, our existing education system doesn’t emphasize the importance of mental health and we end up not knowing the difference between neurosis and psychosis. To make it simple, here is the exact definition of neurosis from Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Neurosis - a mental and emotional disorder that affects only part of the personality, is accompanied by a less distorted perception of reality than in a psychosis, does not result in disturbance of the use of language, and is accompanied by various physical, physiological, and mental disturbances.
It’s clear from this definition that there is a clear distinction between neurosis and psychosis. So if you have depersonalization, where do you fall in this situation? Certainly neurosis, because even though depersonalization feels extremely disturbing, you’re not hallucinating, which is not seeing and hearing things that others are not seeing and hearing.
Neurosis makes you feel like in a dream like state but unless you hear clear voices or see other people that others don’t, you’re not psychotic. Therefore, it’s extremely important to accept that you can never lose your mind due to high level of anxiety. Of course it doesn’t mean that you should not seek treatment.
Reason 2: Depersonalization Means You’re Safe
As I’ve repeatedly mentioned above, depersonalization feels scary. But would you be surprised to learn that depersonalization is actually part of your defense mechanism? Yes, this is true. When you have a DP episode, just like when you have a panic attack episode, it means that your body is fully adjusted for survival.
If you’ve been fearing depersonalization this whole time, then this should be eye-opening to you because the very thing that you’ve been fearing this whole time, happens to be your brain’s way of trying to keep you safe.
Look at it this way – when you constantly dwell on anxiety, your anxiety level gradually increases. As it keeps increasing, your brain starts to feel the pressure and decides to “take a break.” So it temporarily “unplugs” you from reality to restore balance and brings you back after its break is over.
This is exactly what depersonalization is all about. Once the episode is over, the way you interpret it will determine if you’re moving towards recovery or choosing to be stuck in anxiety.
Embracing this new reality will slowly transform the way you see depersonalization and help you drop fear of it. Fear of DP is the only fuel anxiety uses to keep you hooked to its seemingly endless cycle. Cut the supply of fear and depersonalization will be gone.
Reason 3: You Don’t Have Control
The main reason why many people (including my past anxious self) fear depersonalization is loss of control. It feels normal to be in control of your body and the way you feel, right? But let me tell you something we forget about ourselves – we actually have zero control over our bodies.
You don’t run your blood through your veins, you’re not pumping your heart, you’re not growing your nails, you’re not breathing (even though it feels like you are) etc. Your brain does it all without your involvement.
It keeps you alive when you’re fully unconscious in deep sleep. It forces you to exhale when you hold your breath for some time. It activates your fight and flight response to keep you safe. And it makes you feel depersonalization to restore balance and perhaps show you that you’re not in control.
Yes, you’re not in control and you have to accept it. You’ve never been in control of your body, let alone your brain. However, there is one thing you have some control over - you can decide what you can fuel your body and brain with.
Just like you would choose healthy food over junk food for your body, you should choose healthy thoughts over junk thoughts for your brain. But how to have healthy thoughts if you have no control over thoughts?
Thoughts are products of our environment, if you choose to surround yourself with negativity, that’s what you will get. So instead of going to forums filled with hopelessness, constantly talking about anxiety and getting frustrated over why you don’t feel better. Why don’t you set a goal and try to focus on achieving it. If you want to find what goal to set and be surrounded by like minded people then I highly recommend you to join the program.
Just like you can’t get in shape by eating junk food, you can’t recover by feeding your mind with junk. So help your body and brain by choosing what is right and they will make you feel the way you deserve to feel.
Thank you for reading this article. You can learn more about anxiety in our CBT Course for Anxiety absolutely free of charge. If you want to support us, you can visit our store for sustainable mental health awareness clothing. Part of our profits go to support mental health charities and non-profits.