Depersonalization refers to symptoms that make people feel like they are detached from themselves. People who suffer from depersonalization feel as if their body is not real. It is a dissociative disorder that is prevalent in dissociative identity disorder (DID).
Depersonalization usually happens because of prolonged stress or anxiety, and it can also be caused by severe trauma. If you suffer from depersonalization, you might feel like you are having an out of body experience where you can observe yourself from outside of your body. You will feel detached, and your body might feel numb as if it does not exist.
Here are 15 ways to cope with depersonalization and fight anxiety:
1. Acknowledging your feelings of depersonalization
Depersonalization is experienced by 25% of people at least once in their lives. For many people, it is a chronic feeling that never really goes away. It is usually not something to be worried about as it is essentially your body’s way of helping you cope with prolonged stress.
What you can do is acknowledge the feeling of depersonalization. In many cases, it goes away after a while. If you keep thinking about it, it will make you anxious and might even cause you to have a panic attack. But if you accept it and remind yourself that it is only temporary, you’ll start to feel better, and you’ll stop feeling detached from yourself.
2. Focus on your surroundings to stop feeling numb
Keeping yourself grounded in reality can be an effective way to cope with depersonalization and anxiety. If feelings of depersonalization start to creep up, start focusing on your surroundings. Touch the grass and focus on how it feels. If there is someone around you, hold their hands or hug them. Focus on what sounds you can hear and what things you can see in your surroundings.
It would help if you always carried something that you can touch with you. Purchase a small stuffed toy and keep it on you at all times. All of these things will keep you grounded in reality when you’re feeling detached from yourself.
3. Talk to people around you
If you are experiencing depersonalization when you are with friends and family, start talking to them! Do not let the feeling take control of your body. The more you stay quiet and disconnected from the people around you, the harder it will become for you to regain control. If you’re feeling detached and numb while talking to people, try to get back into the conversation.
If there’s no one with you, you can always use your phone to call or text a friend. Many people know what experiencing depersonalization is like, so you can talk to your friends about it.
4. Breathing exercises to cope with feeling detached
Experiencing depersonalization and anxiety can make it difficult to breathe. Your body will go into fight or flight mode, and your muscles will become tense. Anxiety will force you to take rapid breaths through your chest. When this happens, do this exercise：
- Lie on your back in your bed or on the floor.
- Raise your knees a little and bend them. Put a pillow underneath them.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Now take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
- Can you feel your stomach rising? If the hand on your chest is rising more than the hand on your stomach, then you’re not breathing right.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and breathe again, this time making sure it’s your stomach that rises as you breathe and not your chest.
Repeat this exercise a couple of times. It’ll teach you how to breathe through your stomach even when you’re experiencing depersonalization or anxiety, and it’ll also help you relax and calm down.
5. Cut out caffeine
Coffee and soft drinks contain a lot of caffeine, which can push up your anxiety levels and feelings of DP. And coffee consumed later in the day can take hours to wear off, affecting your sleep patterns. It also increases your blood pressure and heart rate and can leave you feeling fatigued once the caffeine leaves your system.
If you’re a coffee-lover, don’t worry; you can get back to it once you recover. But for the moment, you want your body and brain to be in as calm a state as possible, so cut caffeine out of your diet completely.
6. Read aloud
Depersonalization is notorious for the intrusive thoughts it causes. Reading aloud is a great way to focus the mind away from these. Reading aloud uses several cognitive processes such as recognizing visually presented words, analyzing the meaning of words, and controlling pronunciation.
This means that it keeps your brain busy! Your concentration becomes intensely focused, making this an excellent exercise for reducing thoughts of anxiety and depersonalization.
7. Listen to Music
If you have a smartphone, you have access to an infinite selection of podcasts. Pick out a few that interest you and keep them with you at all times. Put them on at any quiet moment. Feelings of anxiety and depersonalization tend to worsen when you’re idle and have time to focus on them.
So be prepared for any spare time with your earphones and smartphone; while you’re waiting for the bus, walking the dog, wherever. Keep your mind occupied. The same goes for music, put on your favorite albums, and sing along!
8. Fight against those negative thoughts
It is prevalent to have negative thoughts when you’re experiencing depersonalization and anxiety. Whenever you are feeling detached, you might start to think that you’re weird or strange for having such feelings. You might also begin to think that you don’t have any control over your body, making you feel overwhelmed, resulting in a panic attack or fainting.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to have feelings of depersonalization, and it’s normal. Tell yourself that it’s okay to feel numb sometimes, and you’re going to be okay. You are still in control of your body because it’s yours.
9. Spend more time doing things you like to cope with depersonalization
As mentioned above, depersonalization can be caused by prolonged stress. If you spend too much time working or doing things you have no interest in, you’ll soon lose all your motivation and energy to do something you like, and you’ll feel burned out.
Focus on your hobbies and things you’ve always wanted to do. Do more things that bring you joy and happiness. You might like playing the guitar, making sketches, or taking pictures. Whatever it is that de-stresses you, do it more often. Doing activities that make you happy will make your depersonalization and anxiety episodes less intense and less frequent.
10. Start exercising
Exercising will help you get rid of those negative thoughts, and it will also help you feel calm and relaxed. Depersonalization can leave you thinking you’re not in control of your body; exercising and lifting weights regularly will remind you that you are. When you lift weights or do cardio exercises regularly, you’ll feel pain in your body, your muscles will become sore, and these things will remind you that you’re real and your body is yours. They’ll stop you from feeling numb.
Knowing which muscles to work out and having control over them will also remind you that your body is under your control. Exercising regularly will also boost your confidence and help you deal with stress.
11. Fix your sleep pattern
Do not stay up all night working or studying. You might think you are productive, but you’re putting more stress on your body than it can handle. Establish a nighttime and morning routine and follow it religiously. Ensure your bed is only for sleeping, and put all digital devices in a different room when you’re about to sleep.
You will feel less anxious, and you won’t feel detached from yourself when you’re not constantly checking your social media accounts on your phone, which is what most people tend to do when they’re having trouble sleeping.
12. Medication for depersonalization
There are no medications that are used specifically for treating depersonalization. You can still use anti-anxiety and antidepressants if you frequently feel detached or numb because of anxiety or depression. Doctors typically prescribe medications like fluoxetine, clomipramine, and clonazepam. Antidepressants are known to stabilize mood and make the symptoms of depersonalization less intense.
According to research, a combination of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications and lamotrigine can be used to treat depersonalization. It would be best if you talked to your doctor about medications first.
13. Focus on your reaction
If you are experiencing depersonalization and anxiety, try to focus on how you react to your symptoms. Depersonalization and anxiety will make you feel like you have no control over your body, but that’s a lie. You have no control over the anxiety or the feelings of depersonalization, but you do have control over your reaction.
If you allow yourself to panic and become frightened when the initial symptoms appear, your negative thoughts will spiral out of control, and you might end up having a full-blown panic attack. When you start feeling detached and have an episode of depersonalization and anxiety, find something to do. Keep yourself busy, so you can trick your brain into thinking that you were not affected by what just happened. It’ll signal to your brain that depersonalization and anxiety aren’t as significant as it thought they were.
14. – Keep a journal
You need to figure out what the underlying cause of your depersonalization is. To do that, you should start keeping a journal in which you write about all of the symptoms that you experience. Write about where and when you experience them and write about them in detail.
If you feel your symptoms match the symptoms of another disorder, you might have a comorbid condition. Depersonalization sometimes happens with other serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or PTSD.
Psychotherapy or talk therapy is probably the most effective treatment for depersonalization. A therapist will help you understand why you are experiencing depersonalization and feeling numb and any other illness that’s causing it.
They will work you through steps that will help make your symptoms less intense. You will learn techniques through which you’ll keep yourself grounded in reality when you experience depersonalization symptoms. Your therapist will also help you with anxiety and how you can cope with it.
Depersonalization can be terrifying if you don’t know anything about it. It makes you feel as if you’re losing control over your body, and that’s one of the most frightening experiences anyone can have. But there’s tons of free knowledge available online now, so do as much research as possible because it becomes easier to cope with it as you learn how and why it happens. Lastly, seek a therapist if nothing works for you.
Depersonalization can be frustrating when it starts affecting your daily life. You find it impossible to focus on anything. Hopefully, with the help of the methods mentioned above, you’ll be able to improve your thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and go back to feeling normal.
Moving forward with Psychotherapy
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Alternatively, if you need to seek psychotherapy, be sure to check out ahealo.com. Ahealo is an online psychotherapy platform with a diverse range of psychotherapists for many different fields of mental challenges. Ahealo provides ePsychotherapy at an affordable price, confidential, convenient (through a web page 1-1 private video call), and at your comfortable schedule.
With these options, we believe your insomnia can be resolved soon.
Take care and stay well.