Depersonalization is a manifestation of anxiety disorders. Depersonalization is when the person experiences the feeling of leaving their own body. A sensation of becoming detached to the physical surroundings and being separated from reality.
This experience of depersonalization is a varying form of a panic attack. It is when the anxiety levels reach so high that there is a release of adrenaline. Unused adrenaline in our system causes a wide variety of feelings and sensations.
Keep in mind that anxiety is as vast and endless as our own imagination. And it knows our deepest fears. The goal of anxiety is to control us in an effort to avoid danger. Therefore anxiety is ultimately customized to create the worst case scenario of fear specific to an individual.
Often people hear symptoms of panic and they usually overlap to some degree. The list of symptoms is very long. And the various combinations that can be made are endless. But it is rare for people to hear about depersonalization. This is not because it is necessarily a rare manifestation of panic, but rather it is often not discussed openly to other people. It is extremely frightening to the individual experiencing it, and typically they will only discuss with their doctor or other professional.
But depersonalization is no different than any other manifestation of panic. The same approach to recovery is required. Depersonalization is no more than a conditioned response to fear.
I remember a story that a friend told me. She was a counselor with me at the treatment center and she was working with a person who had depersonalization. They were working on exposure therapy together in a grocery store; as this was the trigger situation for this person. The client was having higher levels of anxiety and finally started to panic with the sensation of “separating from reality”. It turns out they were in the frozen food aisle, and the counselor grabbed a frozen bag of food and stuck it on the persona neck. The sensation left immediately. The thought pattern was broken and the person stopped experiencing panic.
I have worked with clients myself that had suffered from depersonalization and I too witnessed the same type of immediate response when I was able to break the thought pattern when they started to panic. I have used ice cubes to help clients come down from panic. The tools required when a person is feeling detached needs to be shocking to the senses.
As with all panic, it is extremely frightening and very confusing. To feel as though you have in some way lost touch with reality or even your own body is a very scary thing to go through. As I assured all my clients in the past, I will assure you the same; depersonalization is a common manifestation of anxiety disorders. It does not indicate a more severe problem or a more difficult situation. And full recovery is possible.
Depersonalization should not be treated any differently from any other anxiety disorder. It may seem to be unique or different in some way, but it is really the same as all other anxiety disorders.
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