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Depersonalization: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Cope with and Alleviate it By Shaun O Connor, A Recovered Sufferer

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Shaun O Connor 2009

For my Family And the wonderful friends who helped me: Carrie, Ruth, Johnny and Sherri.

Table Of Contents Part I: Defining Depersonalization Introduction .....8 The Nature of Habit .. . ...18 The Audio Book . . .. ..24 How You Think About DP .. .. ...25 Am I Still The Same Person? ....28 The Choice of Anxiety/DP .... ...31 Ok. I Have Depersonalization, but what exactly is it? . . 34 Fighting the Feeling .... .. .42 Other Causes of DP ... .43 Concern For Friends and Family Members .. . ... 44 Initial Reactions to DP ...45 Childhood Trauma ......46 So, Basically Speaking ......47 State-Specific Memory 49 Who gets DP? .. .50 What DP is Not .. 51

Part II: How To Deal With Depersonalization: Or: On to the good stuff! Keeping Your Mind Constantly Occupied ... .. 55 Reading 57 Music 59 TV / Film ... .60 Video Games ... 62 Socialising ... 65 Dealing With Anxiety/DP Thoughts 67 Knowing But Not Feeling ... . 70 DP and Anxiety ... ... 72

Anxiety/DP and Depression. ... ..74 Anxiety/DP and the Nonsense Illusion .. 77 Why Anxiety/DP is like the School Bully 78 Fact: Anxiety/DP Will Not Lead to Anything Worse .. 80 The 5-Second Rule . 82 Writing Exercise .. 83 Prioritising School and Work .. 85 The Significance of Things .. . 88 Fluorescent Lights and Vision 90 Size & Shape Of Objects . .. 93 Floaters ... 94 Glasses and Contact Lenses 96 Sunglasses . 97 Changes In Time . . 98 Memories .... 99 Neck and Shoulder Pain .... 102 A Clean Environment . . 103 Personal Hygiene .. 104 Food and Drink ... . .106 Caffeine ... ... . .107 Salty Foods . .. .. .109 Candy, Chocolate and Sweet Foods. .. .110 Soda Water .. ...111 Fruit and Veg .. .. .111 Not Hungry? .. . ...112 Supplements .. ....113 Meditation / Yoga Etc .... . 116 Mirrors .. . . .119 Travel .. . 121 Drugs ... ....123 Feelings of Guilt ... . ...127 Alcohol .. 130

Part III: Research And Medication Misdiagnosis and Medication .. .. 134 SSRIs and Benzodiazepines .. . ... 136 Coming Off Medication . . .. 138 St. John's Wort . . 139 DP Websites and Reading Reactions ... ...140 Long Term Anxiety/DP. . . . 143 Sleeping Patterns .. . ... 145 Can Anxiety/DP Return? ...148 The Paradox of Anxiety/DP .. . .... 151 Letting Go Of The Past ...152 Talking to Others About DP ... 152 You Must be Patient! .. . 155 After Anxiety/DP .. ... .. ...158 In Conclusion.............160 Recommended Further Reading ... 162

NOTE 1: I am very much aware of how difficult the very act of reading can sometimes be for someone with dp and especially when reading about the condition. In fact, reading and hearing about it can often set off all sorts of negative thoughts. This, as I will discuss later, is only because of the obsessive nature of the condition, and is actually a very positive aspect for when we begin the recovery process. Still, I know how tough it can be, Ive been there! So with that in mind, I have tried to write this book in as easy and accessible a manner as possible, with as little material / words etc that, in my experience at least, aggravated my dp.

NOTE 2: Also, I am writing specifically about my experience with and research of depersonalization, but dont worry if you feel that you are experiencing derealization too. It is not a separate condition. I can tell you that every last shred of evidence I have encountered in my years of research suggests that depersonalization and derealization are two sides of the same coin. Just as some people, when they get they get hayfever, will get sneezing fits while others will have runny nose and itchy eyes etc they are different symptoms for what is essentially the same condition, and perpetuated solely by anxiety. The advice and techniques I outline in this book will help to alleviate both.

Please note that the medical information contained within this book is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a professional physician and is not a recommendation of specific therapies.

Part I Defining Depersonalization

Introduction Hi there! My name is Shaun. I am a true Irishman, born and bred. I am 29 years old. I am a professional video editor. I have a degree in Multimedia and an MA in Film Studies, I also play music part time, I exercise every day, I have a great social life and a loving family. I am and have always been an avid reader, and consider myself to be quite a creative person. And for many years, I took all of these wonderful things for granted. I thought that as long as I lived, Id always have them available to me. But all of that changed on the night of the 31st of August 2005 when I suffered an intense panic attack. It happened as I was sitting alone, watching television, and seemed to come out of nowhere. It was truly terrifying. I suddenly felt an overwhelming, debilitating fear, though I could see no danger around me. I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me, and for a moment I seriously thought that I might be going insane (a feeling commonly reported in panic attacks). But of course, I wasnt going insane. The feelings of fear began to subside, slowly. I

relaxed a little, though I still felt terribly anxious. And yet, even after the worst of it had passed and I had calmed down, I noticed that my mind felt fuzzy and I was quite disoriented. So, I went straight to bed, confident that I could sleep this feeling off and everything would be fine in the morning. Except that it wasnt. I woke up the next day with that same weird feeling, and just couldnt shake it. I remember sitting down to dinner with my parents that day, and wondering, What the hell has happened to me?? I still wasnt particularly scared at this point, as I was still quite confident it would pass. But that didnt stop me constantly examining the feeling and ruminating on it. In the days and weeks that followed, I tried to figure out what I had experienced (since at the time I had still not recognised it as a panic attack). I began to worry that I had suffered some kind of psychotic break, and that I was somehow losing myself. These kind of thoughts quickly spiralled into more panic attacks, and I quickly began to feel worse and worse. The fuzzy feeling was now constantly in my head, and I could not stop thinking about it. I could not concentrate on any book, film or even conversation anymore. I felt somehow disconnected from the world around me. My mind was racing all the time, furiously trying to understand what was happening, to rationalize this bizarre experience. I felt anxious, literally, from the moment I woke up til the moment I fell asleep at night, mentally and physically exhausted.

I went to my local doctor, who, to be perfectly honest, was no help at all. He didnt even recognise the possibility that Id had a panic attack, though I described the symptoms to him in vivid detail. He told me that I needed to exercise (though Id been doing so, every day), and that everyone gets down on themselves from time to time. And while this did provide me with at least some brief semblance of control, of professional medical intervention, the simple fact is that it did more harm than good. So, with this fuzzy feeling persisting throughout the weeks and months that followed, I tried a variety of different treatments to help myself: these included meditation, massage, reiki, intensive exercise etc. Unfortunately, none of these were effective for more than a short time, and my symptoms generally worsened. At first, though Id been thrown into a state of total fear and confusion, I had retained the conviction that it would eventually pass; like some kind of bad hangover. Even my doctors first opinion (which I completely trusted at the time) was just that; everyone gets down on themselves from time to time, and this feeling would probably disappear on its own. It didnt, though and as time passed, I became more and more used to that horrible mental state, and my hope that it was just a temporary condition began to erode. It was only weeks later, after much researching of my symptoms on the Internet that I even began to understand what was happening to


me. I realised, after reading many personal accounts, that I had indeed suffered a panic attack (something I thought I would never have to endure) and was now experiencing the common, related symptom known as depersonalization. Depersonalization, as various websites informed me, manifests as a feeling of unreality, of not being connected to your surroundings, as if you are watching your life through a screen. I couldnt believe it when I read it this was exactly the feeling I had! I read that panic attacks like Id had were extremely common, and that though depersonalization was not usually as persistent as mine, it was certainly not unheard of. And though I initially felt very relieved that it was actually quite a common condition, I was deeply upset to find that there did not seem to be any specific treatment that could cure it immediately. Would I end up having depersonalization for years to come? I was intensely frightened at this point. My one lifeline, throughout all of what had happened to me thus far, was that there was a rational explanation for what I was feeling, and an effective treatment. But now, it seemed that while I had found the explanation, there was no treatment, no escape. This really sent me into a spiral of anxiety, and at that stage, fairly severe depression too. In fact, to describe the terror that I felt in the weeks and months following the attack would be a difficult thing. I felt constantly afraid of the world around me; everything and everyone


I knew and loved were suddenly things to be scared of, and I was cut off from them utterly. I was living in my head, watching the world pass by. My enthusiasm for life left me. Getting up in the morning seemed futile; why bother exposing myself to a world of stimuli and fear, when I could stay in a safe, darkened room for the day? I knew, empirically, that I was safe, that I would not go crazy, that I would not die; but I couldnt feel it. Telling myself these things was like looking at a maths equation without understanding it; you know it makes sense and that it must be true, but you have no reason or rationale to back it up. The safety in existence itself that I had always taken for granted had left me. I felt utterly isolated in the prison of my own head. That old line, No man is an island, never felt less true to me. Also, though further, subsequent research informed me that my condition was almost certainly anxiety-related, and therefore treatable - I couldnt feel any hope in that, either. In fact, I found if I dwelt for more than a few minutes on what was happening to me, I would panic, convinced that I was stuck this way forever. The absolute despair of those episodes is beyond my descriptive ability; I genuinely felt that I was losing my mind, that my life was over. At one point, I honestly considered the possibility that I had actually died on the night of the first panic attack, and that now I was either in purgatory or Hell, depending on how bad I felt. I stopped sleeping, reading, writing, and eating. I lost two stone (28 pounds). I seriously considered


dropping out of a Masters for which Id been accepted. (I know that all of this sounds terrible, but please bear with me here!) As more weeks passed, and I felt even worse, I found myself bypassing all the reasearch I had done on panic attacks, and considering the possibility that I had some horrible, incurable mental disease or even brain cancer. Those thoughts would lead to more fear and all of this, of course, was self-perpetuating the anxiety, the depersonalization, not eating etc all part of the same downward spiral. One of the worst aspects about the whole experience was that I could see it happening, but I could do nothing to stop it. The more deeply these habits became ingrained, the further away from normality I slid. I tried to remember what Id been like before all this; I mean, I had used to enjoy horror movies, now even Charlie And The Chocolate Factory seemed terrifying (and thats not an exaggeration I remember watching that film in the cinema and being rooted my seat in horror!) The condition reached its worst point when I had to attend a family wedding abroad. For a full weekend of forcing myself to be social and active, my life turned into a movie before my very eyes. Nothing seemed real, and I had not one single moment of relief. I was scared out of my mind at every turn, freaked out by every conversation, sick at the sight of food, and convinced that I was ruining everyones time. I


wanted to curl up in a ball on the floor and weep, though I somehow knew that doing so would only make things worse. I felt that any admission of defeat would later taunt me into complete submission. During that weekend, I woke up in the middle of the night with the feelings of panic upon me. I remembered that I had dreamt of panicking and had woken up with it actually happening. I just couldnt escape from these feelings of terror, even in my sleep. And I had another severe panic attack on the plane on the way back. At that point, I thought that reality itself had collapsed around me. I genuinely felt like I was watching my sanity leave me, I would never be the same again, and Id spend the rest of my life in a quiet, darkened room, terrified of intrusions. I felt intensely jealous of all the people living normal lives, watching TV, working boring office jobs, drinking to forget at the weekends. I had once vowed never to end up living like that; now it seemed like a Utopian fantasy. I went on anti-anxiety medication (SSRIs) two days after the panic attack on the plane. There followed the beginning of an agonisingly slow recuperation, and I had to remember to think about the recovery in terms of weeks, not days (i.e., You feel bad now, but remember how bad you felt on this day last week). Being on the medication initially made it both better and worse; when I felt ok I knew it was helping, but when I felt bad I thought that the medication seemingly, my only potential escape from this state - was not working and that, well, that


was that and life would be like this from here on in. But, like yourself, I was determined to get better. I was not about to give up and I certainly did not want to live with this condition for one minute longer than I had to. During all this time, I had noted that certain factors, both environmental and psychological, seemed to directly influence the intensity of the DP I was experiencing. Certain things made it better, certain things made it worse. And then I realised something: If particular elements (thoughts, environmental factors etc) can affect this, then it must be possible to get out of it altogether by establishing precise habits that simply didnt allow it to persist. It occurred to me that DP was not something that you could consciously stop, like you might turn off a TV or put down a book. As with any other anxiety-based condition, there is no way to rationalize your way out of it. No; the only times that DP was not on my mind was when I was able to forget about it; when I was distracted enough to focus on something else completely. Of course, this was incredibly difficult at times the thoughts of DP can often get in the way of many activities you used to enjoy and be involved in. But then again, thats just another potentially positive fact. Why? Because by that rationale, it must be possible, by retraining your focus and concentration, to


at first diminish DP to an acceptable level and eventually get out of the condition completely. Put simply, there seemed to be an obvious correlation; If I could learn to forget about the DP, then the DP would stop! Unfortunately, the human mind doesnt operate in terms of positives and negatives; for example, if I was to say to you, Whatever you do, dont think about pink elephants! then the first thing you do, whether you like it or not, is think about just that. You can see them right now, cant you! Its that little mental phenomenon that forms the basis of all anxiety-disorders (which are themselves based on obsessive thinking). You spend your whole day thinking, Dont be anxious! Dont think about DP! etc etc, which only tells your subconscious that anxiety and DP are things that deserve to be thought about, that need to be ruminated upon and thats just not true. The fact is that when we interact socially, on a daily basis, we are used to statements like Dont do that or Stop talking about that, usually having the desired effect that those words would imply. But when it comes to the brain, orders are not processed like that. It hears the contents of the order, but not the meaning.


So, instead of trying to get your brain to think about the your anxiety in terms of its meaning (i.e., It arose from a car crash, a bad drug experience etc) which just reaffirms the idea that youre ill, you should actually be trying to change the contents of the thoughts completely and thats best achieved through the act of occupying and diverting your brain completely. But at the time, I was only partially aware of this, and didnt know how to deal with the thoughts properly. So of course, if I didnt feel anxious (for a few minutes or however long it happened to be), I would - purely out of habit - think about how great this was, start contemplating whether I was getting better or not start intensely self-examining - panic and find myself back at square one. You see, the very act of thinking about the condition constantly is what makes it worse and for me, it had permeated my every thought and action from the moment I awoke in the in the morning until I managed to fall asleep at night. The DP habit of thought had been firmly rooted in my daily routine, and everything, even the most innocuous of items and events, seemed to remind me of it.


The Nature of Habit The nature of habit is that it fills your life (or at least, the part of your life with which it is accociated) so fast and so stealthily that pretty soon, its hard to remember life without it. You are denied the opportunity to compare it objectively with old behaviours. A habit isnt just a finite occurrence that has clear before and after stages. It sneaks up on you and welds itself onto your personality. It is something that is learned; and once something is learned and practiced, it is extremely difficult to forget. My old habit of thinking negatively and anxiously was learned in the moments of panic attacks, and practiced in every subsequent fearful thought. Before I knew it, Id been habituated entirely with constant fear and anxiety, and a terrifying (but false) feeling that I may never recover, and if I did, it would take years and years of therapy and medication. Once I managed to gain a little bit of perspective and objectivity, I started a strict regime, based on what I knew aggravated and calmed the anxiety (and therefore, depersonalization). I didnt know if or how much the medication would help, but one way or another, I was determined that I would get out of this condition. And thankfully, about two months later, there was a marked improvement. I began to read again; though I had to do so out loud to regulate my concentration. I forced myself to walk into town, though the DP and anxiety was insisting that I stay safe at home. I began to watch and enjoy television and films again, forgetting


myself by concentrating on the storylines. I spoke to people without thinking that any minute, I might start to panic. I started to experience very brief periods of time in which I felt completely fine, in which I forgot about the condition altogether. And eventually, the DP began to leave me completely. Wait, let me rephrase that: The mental training regime I had used on myself had replaced the thought-habits of anxiety. Though I was still vaguely aware of the memory of it at times of stress, it became something I could control and once I knew that, it ceased to have any power over me. I could just read a book, flick on the TV, chat to someone the smallest distraction helped me forget about it. During my recovery, I noticed positive changes in myself. One of the mantras that I had while sick was, If I ever get out of this, nothing trivial will ever really bother me again how could it? And for some time, I did feel gratitude for normality. But you know what? After a while, you just get back into the swing of things, and you get completely back to normal. I mean, 100%, just interested in your hobbies, your passions, the little dramas that make life so interesting and so frustrating, What I mean to say is that once you get rid of the anxiety, you will get back to your normal self almost without even noticing it. And yet, though its difficult for me to remember just how tough the whole experience


was (as you will too, because of another mental phenomenon known as State-specific memory, which Ill explain later!) I do feel a sense of gratitude for what I went through. Firstly, it has helped me to meet, via the Internet, literally hundreds upon hundreds of people who have been affected by anxiety and dp, and who have made full recoveries. I have also had the pleasure of meeting some of these wonderful people in person. But it also brought into my life a deep sense of empathy that I think most people may never experience. I never really knew how difficult things could get for people with anxiety, and I am thankful for having that knowledge now. The whole thing taught me a lot about ones values in life, too. I know its a clich, but really, what importance do money or material possessions truly have if youre not essentially happy? If you cant connect with your family or friends, if you are cut off from everything that makes you human, that gives life meaning, that tells you in your soul that this is all worthwhile? Never before has the importance of connection in life been made so clear to me. Connection is all there is, it is the ultimate motivation in life, to know and more importantly, feel, that we are part of something. As the Desiderata says, and you should never forget: You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.



Ok, now I know that my story might have been difficult to get through in places for some readers with DP. And I dont want to get too heavy with regard to interpretations, or my life being changed afterwards or anything like that, because the fact is that I, like everyone who has recovered from an anxiety disorder, is just back to normal. But I really need you to understand just how bad my anxiety and depersonalization was. I mean, Ive heard a lot of accounts of peoples experiences, from all walks of life, all around the world, and I would still consider my own time with anxiety to have been fairly severe. I need you to understand that I absolutely had what is considered chronic DP; that is, it was totally relentless (I had it 24/7) and it was utterly debilitating. It was absolutely horrendous, to the point where I had weeks and months of it with not a single moment of relief whatsoever. At one point it had even invaded my sleep! But the point of my story is this:

I got better. I recovered completely. I got back to normal.



Yes, my recovery was long, slow and extremely tough at times and I still got through it. And I firmly believe that that process can be greatly expediated by simply having someone explain to you why youre having these strange thoughts and feelings, and how to deal with them. So yes, I am completely better now, and the only anxious thoughts that come into my head are normal ones like hoping youre going to like this book! Throughout my research of the condition, both during and after my DP, I couldnt help but notice the lack of general guides on the Internet for specific ways of dealing with this temporary illness (and remember it is temporary). However, as Ive already said, I knew that certain actions would almost invariably make it better or worse. These actions would sometimes be discussed in positive terms - in various places on the Internet. But these discussions or articles were often wedged between other, truly horrible reports that would grab your attention, scare you, aggravate the DP and leave you feeling even worse than before! And even in spite of any general tips I did come across, I could find no set list of recommendations for how to deal with DP; nowhere was there any sort of specific plan for


it, for dealing with it with precise goals in mind. So, I set up my own personal goals. I decided to myself that I would win this thing out, little by little, no matter how long it took. I began to think carefully about what could have caused it, what it actually was, and how I would train myself out of it. And thats essentially what this book is: A training program. During my recovery, I vowed that if I could find ways to deal with depersonalization, I would collate all of the information I came across, every email I sent and received about it, every single method and medication I tried - and put them all together to help people with the problem. This book is a detailing of the regime that, through much trial and error, I found was most effective in coping with, and eventually, alleviating and ending the condition.


The Audiobook

With the new edition of this book, I have included a spoken-word copy of the text in Mp3 format. As per the book, the audio files are broken up into separate chapters. And yes, thats me reading it! I want you to take these files and copy them onto a portable music player (iPod etc). Put on your headphones - and listen to it over and over again. Listen to it as much as you can. Put it on while youre washing the dishes, going for a walk, whatever. Especially, put it on when youre going to bed and listen to it as you drift off to sleep. The rule is to keep it repeating in your ears until you find yourself getting bored of listening to it then switch it off and go do something you enjoy, something to keep you busy. This will be a very useful part of your recovery.


How You Think About DP

OK this bit is hugely important, so I want you to pay close attention. If you have not done so already, you must make one small change as to how you think about DP, and it is to understand the following. Here's the secret of depersonalization, what is forgotten about it so often, and the basic realization that will form the basis of your recovery: It is an anxiety-based disorder. And that's all it is. IT CANNOT EXIST ON IT'S OWN. It needs to feed off anxiety in order to exist at all. I have never met or heard of a single person who felt dp and totally calm at the same time. It simply cannot happen. It's like someone who claims they have given up smoking but goes around reeking of cigarettes all the time. It cannot happen! Anxiety is based on obsessive thoughts, and once you get rid of


that, the dp disappears. It falls away as if it was never there in the first place. And I know, you might be thinking, Hang on theres been times when I have felt totally calm and dp at the same time. Well, consider that statement for a second. How could anyone possibly feel calm and dp at the same time?? Its true that you might have felt relatively calm, compared to, say, a recent full-blown panic attack, or the state of being exposed to a personal phobia but the fact of the matter is that dp is an anxiety-spectrum disorder, so if you feel dp, you are not feeling calm. Got it?? Anxiety and depersonalization are NOT mutually exclusive. Anxiety causes dp. Yes, the feeling of dp can then aggrevate the anxiety, and then viceversa, causing a chain-reaction that can lead to a full-blown panic attck. But the fact remains that the basic catalyst, the initial reaction that generates the feeling of disconnection is anxiety. And thats all it is. Every last shred of research and evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, confirms that. So remember that: DP is caused by anxiety. FACT! So from here on in, whenever I mention anxiety anywhere in this book, I am referring to depersonalization too.


Heres another piece of information for you to absorb: DP is absolutely not a never-ending, life-long condition. It is not as if a switch has been flicked in your mind that cant be changed back. If you watch a good horror film, and feel a little nervous afterwards (and who doesnt?), why on earth would you assume that that feeling will never go away? Of course it will, and its because you make that positive assumption, and keep living your life as normal, that it actually goes away. On the other hand, if you came out of the cinema and thought, for whatever reason, Oh my God, why I am I feeling so scared?? and spent hours, days, weeks focusing on the sensations what do you think would happen? Thats right, the fear and anxiety would stay with you. You would stop living your life as normal, you would allow your mind to be consumed with obsessive thoughts, and you would develop a crippling fear of ever going to the cinema again. Right? And all because you focused on fearful thoughts when rationally, you should have been able to just let them go. And all you need to remember is that when you start thinking rationally again, living your life as normal, staying busy and distracted, that the anxiety switch in your brain can and will be turned off.


Am I Still The Same Person? One question that I am regularly asked is, Has this condition changed me? Will I ever be the same again? Has my personality been altered somehow?? Now, that idea scared me a lot while I had anxiety and dp; the idea that even when I did get out of the condition, that I would be somehow changed; that I would never be quite the same person again. Well, having recovered, I am now on the other side of that fence and I can tell you with 100% certainty that you can get back to being exactly the same person you were before all of this happened. I want you to think of the experience like this: Imagine that you woke up one morning with an extra 200 pounds somehow stuck onto your body weight. You couldnt move, you felt terrible, you didnt want to get up and move around. Well, that scenario is actually a lot like anxiety and dp: your mind suddenly has all this extra baggage loaded onto it. It feels sluggish, it cant seem to move properly. And yet, parts of it move too fast your focus and concentration rush unnecessarily from one thought to another (just like the heart of an obese person pumps extra hard to keep up with the extra weight).


So your mind has suddenly been lumped with all this excess baggage. Its terrible, believe me - I know! But heres the thing to remember above all else:

Do you think that when you read a good thriller story, and you get to the exciting part and your heart beats faster and you feel nervous that youve become a different person?? Of course not! Yes, your body and brain can get very tired of feeling anxious all the time, and produce all kinds of silly rationalizations to explain whats happening but trust me, nothing has changed about you, not a single thing!! And to return to the weight metaphor; Well, just as you would have to get your body into a new healthy routine to shed those extra pounds, it is up to you to get your mind into a healthy training regime to get rid of all that unwanted stuff, and train yourself back to normal. It wont be particularly easy, but you know what? Nothing worthwhile ever it, its absolutely worth the effort and youll even find it even becomes enjoyable after a while! You must also understand and accept that just like the weight, wishing anxiety/dp to go away


will not make it so. It will not disappear overnight. Sitting around, feeling sorry for yourself, logging into dp forums on the Internet every day will do you no good whatsoever. Just as you would with the weight, you must accept that for the moment, you have this temporary condition, but you are fully determined to do something about it. Because the fact remains that you can and will get rid of every trace of your anxiety and therefore, dp.



It all comes down to this, guys. Anxiety/DP gives you a choice, and it is this: You can either decide to live with it for the rest of your life - Or you can decide to get through it and enjoy all the spiritual and emotional strength that getting through it will give you. And Ive got good news: You have already chosen the second option. In buying this book, you have already shown that you are not content to just keep living with this pointless condition. You want to understand and overcome it, and thats what this book will help you to do. So I want you to do something very important:


Stop worrying about your anxiety / dp.

From now on, leave that to me. Now, that doesnt mean that its immediately going to just stop or anything but your worrying about it can end right now, this very second.

I want you to stop worrying that your anxiety/dp is going to turn into a worse condition. Because it wont.

I want you to stop worrying that you will act upon any of the nasty thoughts that anxiety/dp pushes into your mind. Because you wont. I want you to stop thinking that this condition will be with you for the rest of your life. Because it wont.

I want you to imagine all the mental weight of your anxiety being lifted off your head and placed onto this book. Ok? Its my responsibility from now on. Look, I went through chronic, unremitting anxiety/dp for a long, long time. I documented everything I


felt and everything I tried to alleviate it. I have read dozens of books on and related to the subject, and have looked at literally hundreds of anxiety/dp related websites and I did all this both during the condition (with the reference of the actual experience) and after my recovery (with the benefit of hindsight). So think of me, and this book, as your guide. Dont look at any more anxiety/dp related material from now on, because believe me, Ive seen it all, every last iota of it, and Im going to tell you exactly what you need to know, and nothing more. I got through anxiety/dp, and I will help you to get through it too. So put your trust in me. All you have to do is follow the guidelines in this book for as long as is necessary.


Ok. I have Depersonalization. But what exactly is it?

As weve already established, dp is caused by anxiety, which itself can be caused by any number of factors. But for the moment, lets just have a quick look at what exactly it is. Well, believe it or not, depersonalization is actually a very interesting condition! It is extremely common in fact, its the third most commonly experienced psychiatric symptom (so always remember, you are not alone! Somebody else has certainly already had any and every nasty, nonsensical thought that dp pushes into your mind!). Almost everyone experiences some level of depersonalization at some point in their lives. It can be brought on for many different reasons, most often because of the anxiety induced by some sort of traumatic experience: A car crash, the death of a loved one, a bad drug experience, even a panic attack. Now, the anxiety/dp usually lasts for no longer than the duration of the actual trauma, and possibly for a brief time afterwards. But for some, like me and you, it can stick around for longer than that. So, why does this happen to some people and not others ?


Well, as Ive said, dp/anxiety kicks in for many people involved in a traumatic experience. But it does so for a very good reason that is, to emotionally remove the person from the dangers that are present in the environment (the fire, car crash etc) So that they can ignore the feelings of fear etc that would normally cripple them, and act rationally to get out of that burning house, crashed car etc. Now, for most people, the depersonalization dissipates naturally when they are out of the traumatic situation but this is not always the case. In just the same way that some people are more susceptible to depression or even hayfever than others, it seems that some people are more susceptible to dp than others. They can become intensely aware of the feeling of being outside yourself that dp causes and say, Hey - wait a second, why am I feeling like this? That unease creates more anxiety and fear (which is now actually focused on the feeling of depersonalization), with the result that the depersonalization is not able to dissipate as normal. It turns into a cycle of more anxiety/dp and more fear generating the thought habit that becomes the actual condition. This is actually more common for people who experience the trauma of panic attacks, since there is no visible danger around. In that case, the person experiences anxiety/dp as


normal (as a reaction alongside the panic attack) as they should but since there is no obvious threat in the environment, they have no explanation whatsoever as to why these feelings of unreality should be there at all. After all, there is no visible danger to escape! The same goes for people who might have a bad drug experience; the feelings of disconnection that drugs can induce, combined with the natural anxiety that a bad trip can generate, obviously sets the person up for continued feelings of anxiety/dp! Now, understandably, the person (in any of these types of traumatic situations) can get very afraid of these feelings, and even think theyre going mad but the simple fact is that nothing of sort is actually happening. What is happening is that your brain has put into effect a perfectly natural defensive system and because of the continued focus on the anxiety/dp after the fact of the trauma itself, its not quite sure whether its safe or not to take down those defences. So it plays it safe and keeps them up! So as we can see, there are a variety of causes, but what is common to each and every case is that the person at some point focuses on the dp, and tries to understand and rationalize just why they are having these feelings. This in turn generates a sense of panic, makes the anxiety/dp worse - just as focusing on any thought gets it stuck in your head (even a catchy song!).


All that happens is that the anxiety/dp doesnt get a chance to go away, simply because the individual hasnt allowed it to do so. There is no longer a fire or car crash or bad trip (or in the case of a panic attack, there was nothing in the first place) to which you can attribute the feelings of unreality, so you wonder, When is this going to end? when the truth is that having that very thought is what prolonged the anxiety/dp. This feeling, which is only supposed to last minutes at most, can of course, when you focus on it, turn into a thought-habit that may last for hours, days, months etc with no relief at all. Interestingly, there has been relatively little psychiatric research into the condition (at least, in comparison to to more easily definable conditions such as depression or generalized anxiety). This is partly because it has been so difficult to define for so long, and also because in the vast majority of cases, the depersonalization is a secondary symptom caused by some other trauma. And once the root of the trauma has been dealt with, by whatever means, the anxiety dissipates and the depersonalization simply stops. However, there has been a recent trend to think that dp is somehow a stand-alone condition, and many people will go to their doctor/psychiatrist, complaining of these feelings of unreality. Even if the doctor recognizes this description as dp (and they often do not), they may tell the patient that they have depersonalization disorder. And while this term may be technically valid, it pretty much fails to address the fact that it is


absolutely, 100% based on anxiety. It is not a stand-alone condition, and the belief that it is tends to be very counter-productive in terms of recovery. What prolongs anxiety/dp beyond the natural reaction to a stressful situation is that it forms into a habit of thought that can persist or recur over time. This happens because during the initial onset of anxiety/dp, the environment around you seems to become more threatening. Though there is no visible danger, it is how you perceive things that creates the stress. Anxiety/dp can quickly generate from this a negative thought-habit. The amygdala, the part of the brain that registers fear, is told that the individual is in great danger. You look around you and see no threat. (No bears or spiders, or anything that would normally trigger the fight/flight response!) But you are still fearful and anxious. So the amygdala registers your very environment as dangerous. You might say that it has nowhere to go, nothing to focus on; there is nothing specific to be worried about, so the fear is projected onto anything and everything. Suddenly, your kitchen or bedroom can seem terribly frightening. Now, you know deep down that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of there but the fear itself wont accept that. This is a deeply confusing and scary feeling, and for me at least, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. People who go through it often decide that they must be going insane.


Why else would this crippling fear of nothing at all come upon them? Of course, they are not going crazy the body is simply reacting properly to what it perceives as danger. This makes the fear selfperpetuating; there is no threat, so you assume that something is wrong with your mind. This in turn generates more fear, and can quickly spiral out of control into a fullblown panic attack and the establishment of anxiety/dp thought-habits. That is one aspect of anxiety/dp that can be particularly frustrating: the fear and anxiety has nowhere to go and nothing to focus on. The result is that more and more fear builds until it even gets projected onto the philosophical thoughts that inspire wonder rather than alarm in most people questions like, Why am I here?, Who am I? etc. The fear cant find anything to focus on in the environment, so it eventually focuses back on the individual and suddenly makes thoughts that others usually enjoy or take for granted seem unreasonably frightening. All of this contributes to the anxiety/dp sufferer getting caught in a cycle of selfobservation and analysis. Every little twitch, itch and movement becomes something to fear. The sufferer becomes overly aware of their body and mind, so analytical of each sensation and movement that the inattentive ease of normal functioning is diminished. These analytical thoughts can become very intense, even so much so that they can actually feel like a barrier between the mind and body, to the


point where the body, or parts of it, dont even feel like they belong to the person anymore. And thats what anxiety/dp is. Doesnt that make sense? Its actually kind of stunning to realise that in fact, there is a perfectly rational and normal explanation for everything that youre feeling! And isnt it incredible to think that all of the fear and panic that you may have felt every last bit of it was actually caused by the defensive systems of your brain?? If you think about it, theres actually nothing wrong with you, at least in the classical sense; in that with anxiety/dp, there is no organic brain problem (a tumor etc), nothing of the sort! In fact, youre at the opposite end of the scale your brain is actually guarding your health so carefully that its bothering you!! So I hope you can appreciate the irony of all of this, and maybe even see some humour in the situation. Because honestly, when you recover, you will actually look back at all of this and laugh. And you have already taken a huge step towards getting there, because: You now know why and how your brain is reacting as it it. You know that its just a temporary defensive reaction thats become a temporary habit, and You know that you can and will recover.


Now I know, as Im sure you do too, that before you bought this book, that living with anxiety/dp on a day-to-day basis may have been be very difficult. It can wear you out, both intellectually and physically. And of course, being in a weak physical and mental state diminishes your defences all the more, further building up the negative thought-habits. All of this contributes to a bad pattern of thinking that can very quickly become part of your everyday routine. But you can break that habit, and thats what this book is going to help you to do.



Some people react to the initial feelings of anxiety/dp by trying to fight against it. But if you think about it, the idea of fighting against ones own natural defence mechanisms is pointless, right? Fighting against it actually makes things worse, and prolongs the anxiety/dp. The result is that the intensity of the aforementioned analytical thoughts is continued and the barrier between the conscious mind and physical perceptions remains. It is this gap created between the two that eventually becomes persisting anxiety/dp. This gap is often described as feeling like a pane of glass between the individual and reality. Because the sufferer keeps focusing on this feeling, they find that all their thoughts become directed back at themselves. They become stuck in a negative thought-habit of constantly observing and checking themselves. But dont worry because no matter how ingrained that habit, it is, like all habits, reversible!


OTHER CAUSES OF ANXIETY / DP Remember that anxiety/dp can also be caused by periods of depression; the brain uses it as a coping mechanism. It can also be brought on by episodes of other conditions, such as various types of anxiety disorders. However, for some people, there seems to be no trauma, no drug-inducement, no nothing that caused the anxiety/dp. They may have been just walking along the street one day, when the condition suddenly hit them. The fact that there seemed to be no cause whatsoever can make the condition all the more frightening; its as if something has gone wrong in the persons brain for absolutely no reason at all. But things are not always what they seem. There are a huge number of elements that, when combined, can cause a person to experience an episode of anxiety/dp. For example, your work might be a little stressful. You might be drinking some caffeine and soft drinks etc. You might not be sleeping as well as you should. You might have small some problems in your personal relationships. You might be suffering from a common ailment like post-natal depression, mid-life crisis, exam stress etc. And of course, all of these things on their own can seem like they can be coped with on a day-to-day basis. But these various stresses combined over time can cause the body and mind to react in very strange ways. For some, it may be an anxiety attack, for others, a general depression or a bad headache and for some, it can be, simply, the onset of


persistent anxiety/dp. As I have already said, it should be nothing more than a natural, momentary feeling, but the fact that the person gets a chance to focus on it intensely (and not have to deal with any coexisting dangerous situation) is what prolongs the thoughts and feelings of anxiety/dp, thereby starting the habit of thought that leads to the condition developing. For some other people, anxiety/dp can appear much more slowly, with the feelings of fear and obsessive thinking gradually moving into everyday life. While this may not be quite as intense as a sudden onset, the final condition is the same.

Concern for Friends and Family Members One particular factor that seems to sometimes cause the onset of anxiety/dp is concern or worry about family members; it certainly was in my case. If a close friend or family member is going through trauma or a time of crisis, it can deeply affect the other friends or members of the family. The best way to deal with this is simply to be as open as possible with the person youre concerned about, and to get them to do the same. The fact is that anxiety/dp seems to emerge when latent stresses accumulate so dont keep them latent. Address them, talk about them, and try to fix them as best you can.


Initial Reactions to Anxiety/DP A person who has recently developed anxiety/dp can respond in a number of ways. Unfortunately, these can often be actions that tend worsen the state. For example, someone who interprets the sensations of anxiety/dp as a feeling that they are somehow not fully awake may have a few cups of strong coffee to get themselves fully alert. In reality, this is one of the worst things you can do; not only does it aggravate anxiety and therefore dp, but drinking lots of coffee tends to upset your sleeping patterns, making the anxiety/dp even worse. These reactions are perfectly normal considering the symptoms (I initially tried to get rid of anxiety/dp by doing these things), and yet, they usually only serve to make things worse, and ingrain further the negative thought-habits. I want you to briefly look back now over your initial reactions to the condition and try to remember if any of them could have made it worse. The point here is to understand that (primarily because of a general lack of information about the condition), it is so, so very easy to react in the wrong way to feelings of anxiety/dp. You must remember that it is not your fault that you have it; it is just your body reacting to a combination of different stresses.


Childhood Trauma

Also, it is very important to note that anxiety/dp can also be brought on by various forms of childhood trauma. In fact, this is something I have seen over and over again in the contact Ive had with sufferers of the condition over the years. It may have been sexual / psychological / physical abuse, or any form of intense trauma experienced as a child (although anxiety/dp seems to be more linked with emotional abuse). Though it may be years, even decades since the incident(s), anxiety/dp can be brought on by something in the immediate environment that reminds you of a traumatic childhood event. I dont mean to generalise this too much; almost everybody goes through tough times as a kid. But you should consider the possibility carefully - and if you think that you may have something serious in your past that you


havent properly dealt with, then you need to go and discuss it with a qualified therapist. I wont go into this topic in detail here, since it has been covered in many other publications and this is a book about anxiety/dp. But if you have reason to believe that you were abused physically or emotionally as a child, then you absolutely need to get it out in the open and deal with it carefully. That will be the first step in getting rid of your anxiety/dp for once and for all.

So, Basically Speaking

Anxiety/dp is simply your minds way of reacting to an event thats been too traumatic to deal with up front. When you go through an experience thats very difficult, your mind says, Right - this is too much for me. Im staying out of this one! - it pulls back from the experience, because it simply seems too scary. Once again, thats why anxiety/dp so often


seems as if theres a pane of glass between the sufferer and the rest of the world its not because of any sort of permanent change, its simply because your mind is trying protect itself from anything dangerous and has created a temporary screen to keep that stuff out. Think of it like this: A guy walks down the same street every day, happy and content. Then one day, he gets beaten and mugged. Afterwards, he feels shocked and traumatised. Of course, there is no permanent damage, but for a while he is scared to leave the house. Its a perfectly natural reaction! And thats exactly what the mind does with anxiety/dp it says Im staying in the house for a while until I get my confidence back up. Of course, getting your confidence back up takes a lot of effort. But it must be done. Otherwise, that man who got mugged can end up stuck in the house for much longer than he ever really should, afraid of going out again. And heres the most important part: Its up to you to get that confidence level back up. You must learn to calm your mind down and coax it out of its fear, out from behind that invisible barrier. You must retrain your mind to understand that there is actually nothing to be afraid of!


State Specific Memory It might seem astonishing to anyone who suffers from anxiety/dp on a daily basis, but the following is true: People who have recovered from anxiety/dp almost always say, What on Earth was I worried about?? because nothing really changes at all with the condition its just the way you look at it! In fact, anxiety/dp is very much an example of a condition that features what psychologists call state-specific learning, and refers to any type of experience that is difficult to remember emotionally. That means that what you feel when you have anxiety/dp - all the fear, phobias, obsessive thinking etc - is very, very difficult to recall once you get out of it. For example, I can describe anxiety/dp to someone in vivid detail, but I cannot remember the feelings of it in the same way that I can remember, say for example, the sadness I felt when I finished college and said goodbye to my classmates. I know that this may sound unbelievable right now, but I guarantee that when you recover completely from anxiety/dp, you will find it very difficult to even remember these emotions of fear and discomfort that seem so important at the moment!


So Who Gets Anxiety/DP? Anxiety disorders tend not to discriminate, and can affect people in all walks of life. And yet, I have found over and over that people with anxiety/dp are usually the sensitive, intelligent and reflective type. This is not entirely surprising, since it is introspection and contemplation of temporary feelings that create the condition in the first place. In my experience, this has actually been a very positive thing, since all of the people I have contacted in researching the condition have always been open, intelligent and optimistic, even in the face of what is often terrible fear. Really, you couldnt ask to meet a nicer bunch of people! Also, its noteworthy that anxiety/dp happens to both men and women in equal measure, at any age (however, it is more frequent in teenagers and people in their early twenties, probably due to the stresses - and often, drug use - associated with those ages).


What Anxiety / DP Is Not When I first experienced anxiety/dp, I became completely obsessed with trying to find out exactly what it was.

I spent hours upon hours on the Internet, looking up all sorts of websites that seemed to refer to my symptoms. At various stages, I thought it was: Insomnia Brain Fog Cancer Depression Early Mid-Life Crisis Existential Crisis Schizophrenia Amnesia Fybromyaglia Bad Eyesight (!) and a whole host of other things. And you know what? Im pretty sure that most people with anxiety/dp go through a similar experience. I think that the general lack of knowledge about anxiety/dp is a very bad thing. If more people knew about it, and were aware that its nothing more than a commmon anxiety-based condition, theyd be able to recognise the symptoms, and understand that what they have is both known and treatable.


And most important of all remember this: Anxiety/dp is absolutely not any type of psychotic condition. People who suffer from psychoses tend to regress into their own, selfcreated reality. With anxiety/dp, reality testing is exactly the same it just seems too amplified and intense because of the constant anxiety that accompanies the condition. And lets reiterate it one more time, folks its all caused by anxiety. Nothing more. Dp is just a symptom of anxiety. So get rid of the anxiety and the dp will disappear - And that rule is 100%, with no exceptions.


Part II How To Deal With Anxiety / DP: Or: On To The Good Stuff!


Ok, so far, we have established that anxiety/dp is essentially a habit of thought, brought on by a number of different factors. Well, whats the best way to get yourself out of a habit? Ive done a lot or research into the formation, development and removal of habitual behaviour, and despite common belief, you shouldnt try and kick a habit cold turkey thats very difficult and often fails. So dont assume that youre going to wake up tomorrow morning with no anxiety/dp at all it simply doesnt work that way. Like getting out of any habit properly and effectively, you will train yourself out of it and that involves replacing the old habit with a new, more productive one. In the same way that waking up one morning with 200 extra pounds stuck onto you means that you have to go into physical training, getting rid of anxiety/dp means that youre going to go into mental training to get back to optimum mental fitness. So in the following sections, Im going to guide you through what you need to do to achieve just that.


Keeping Your Mind Constantly Occupied Ok, so now weve established anxiety/dp as a habit of thought. Now, lets compare it to another habit: smoking. If youre a smoker, how do you deal with cravings after you quit? Sure, you can use nicotine patches, gum etc and yet the bottom line is about having the will power to get past it. But you can certainly help your will power out by distracting yourself from the craving, by ignoring and trying to forget the habit. For example, a very common tip for smokers is, keep your hands busy. If you play an instrument, go practice it. If you like to knit, go knit. Go look at some interesting websites for a while. The exact same idea works with anxiety/dp. But because it is a habit of thought, getting out of it is a little more tricky than simply not performing the physical act of picking up that cigarette. The pink elephant principle applies here - if you think, right, for the next ten minutes Im not going to think about anxiety/dp, the chances are that you wont able to stop! And with anxiety/dp, that tends to happen over and over again, reinforcing the habit. The harder you try to not think about it, to forget about it - the more you do think about it and the more ingrained the thought becomes. That, specifically, is why the condition can be so horribly frustrating: its very much up to the


individual to take action but the action taken by the individual often makes the condition worse. But the bottom line is this: you must train your mind to not think about anxiety/dp. That doesnt mean you will learn to stop thinking about it, or get rid of the thought but just to think about something else. And the best way of doing this is to keep your mind constantly occupied. So how do you do that? Well, Take a leaf out of the smokers book: Keep your hands busy! If you play an instrument, go practice. If you dont play an instrument, start learning one. If you like to knit, go knit. Go surf the web for a while (but not anxiety/dp sites!!). Always keep busy. And remember: Every time you are busy, you are absolutely working towards something your own recovery. So dont worry about doing even the most frivolous thing. Enjoy it. But stay busy all the time. And remember, its also better to stay busy with activities that actually involve your mental input more than others. For example, reading or writing can be so much better than watching television, since its easier to drift away into your own thoughts while doing the latter (That said, though, television can also be the source of a good, positive routine, as I will later outline). Learning an instrument is also a great example since it absolutely requires your full attention; your visual, aural and motor skills are all required to get results.



Read, as much as you can! But remember: you should, for the time being at least, be reading only fun, entertaining books, not stuff about anxiety/dp, psychology, religion, philosophy etc. This is not the time to be performing research on the condition. The study of existence / perception etc is fine and if thats your thing, believe me, youll be able to get back to it soon enough. But for the moment you have to fill your mind with entertaining, fun, enjoyable words and images. You should get the basic happy thought processes back into their routine before you analyse anything deeper. So find a good story that you want to read. Something juicy! A romance, an adventure, a thriller, a good comedy, whatever. Something with a good, rich narrative. Make sure its easy reading, and something you will probably enjoy. Now dont worry one bit if the simple act of reading seems too much for you at times the temporary effects of anxiety/dp on concentration means that its extremely


common to find reading difficult. So if you find you are having trouble with it, here are some useful tips: Read out loud to yourself. Do it slowly, one line at a time. Put on different voices for the characters, if you like! For the more exciting parts, speed up a bit.

Read as if you were reading aloud to a group of kids sitting around you. Make it as dramatic and as exciting as possible. Of course, it may seem weird at first, but the point is this: You are narrating a story reading it and saying it out loud. You are keeping the interpretive, speaking and listening parts of your brain active, and thereby making it very difficult for any unwanted thoughts to annoy you. This is a fantastic way of training your concentration, so do it as often as you can!



Ok, this next point is very important: I want you to keep music with you, as much as you can. Buy an iPod, a Walkman or some sort of portable music device. Put all your favourite albums on it and listen to them as much as you can, especially when out for a walk, going shopping or whatever. Personally, I would advise against darker music like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead etc (even though I love those bands!)- I found that poppy, upbeat music like the Beach Boys etc was the best for me so you should put on whatever music makes you feel best and puts a smile on your face! And just like the reading sing along to the music! If theres an album you like but youre not sure of all the lyrics yet, then play it over and over and over until you can sing along with whole thing. Do the same for all your favourite songs and albums. Make that your goal: Anytime you go for a walk or a drive, put on songs that you love and


learn to sing along to them. Make playlists of the tracks you want to learn and learn them! It doesnt matter If you actually can sing or not, do it anyway! So, anytime you leave the house at all, youll have your favourite albums to look forward to (Also, it is a good idea to keep a copy of this audiobook with you). Also, you can always get a good audiobook and have that to hand whenever you want. As the digital audio revolution has boomed, these have become more and more popular, and there is a huge selection available nowadays. These are a great way to keep your mind engaged in all sorts of different situations (walking, driving, on a plane etc) - so pick up a few good ones and enjoy!


Television / Film

Television has often been described as nothing more than a big distraction and thats usually in a negative context - but not here! Television can actually be a great way to divert yourself from thoughts of anxiety/dp. Personally, though, I think its not quite as effective a concentration exercise as reading, and I would advise only watching shows and movies that you know are going to engage and interest you. But I will say this: during my recovery, I got absolutely addicted to Lost and found that whenever I was watching it, I had very few thoughts about anxiety/dp. In fact, if you have the money, I would definitely recommend buying (or renting) a full series of a really good television show on DVD (The Sopranos, 24 etc) and watching an episode every night or every second night. This will give you an interesting distraction to look forward to in the evenings and provide a good routine. As for going to the cinema, well, that big room and screen can sometimes be intimidating for someone in an anxious state (as I found out for


myself!) but basically, its the same as everything else theres absolutely nothing to be afraid of, and the sooner you train your brain to remember that, the better. You should also remember that, as with any affliction, laughter is an absolutely wonderful medicine for anxiety/dp. Rent out all your old favourite comedies and find some new ones too. Watch your favourite sit-coms regularly. And if you find that you are not laughing as much as you used to, thats totally fine. Sometimes the thought-habit of anxiety/dp makes it difficult to concentrate, even on good jokes. This is temporary, and will change in time. In the meantime, just relax as best you can and enjoy your shows and movies!

Video Games It seems that some people with anxiety/dp find video games to be very helpful. I recently read a fascinating article on how people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are recommended to play long sessions of Tetris, as soon as possible after the initial stressful incident. If the events have been stuck in your thoughts for a few hours, then immediate, intensive distraction for a little while will push out them out as if theyd never been there in the first place. If youre unfortunate enough to have been stuck with these thoughts for months and even years, then its probably going to take


a longer amount of constant distraction to achieve the same effect. But it always works. It works because the mind has been diverted (by trauma, drugs, grief etc) into an anxious, introspective state, and all youre doing now is reversing that procedure. It works because it has to work. So in that sense, computer games can be a really wonderful source of distraction for the anxious mind, since they require a very immediate concentration. I found that during my own recovery, having a portable video games console was very valuable. Any time I found myself sitting around, and inevitably beginning to examine my own thoughts, I just started up a few games and found myself totally distracted within minutes. Now, you may be saying to yourself, well, thats all great, but wont the anxiety/dp just start up again once you shut off the console? Arent you just putting off the inevitable?, youre not!! And heres why: By taking out the games console (or book, instrument etc), you are interrupting the brains associational patterns. You start to feel worried, anxious, maybe theres a panic attack and intense dp coming on and all of a sudden, youre playing MarioKart! and totally immersing yourself into it. The point is that every single time you do this, you are telling your brain that no matter how anxious you feel, it can be stopped. The sensation of everyday nervousness does not


have to lead to anything more than itself. And the more you do this, the more you remove any anxiety/dp- related associations. Basically, whats happening is that you are defusing the fear of fear, which is exactly what anxiety/dp (and every other anxiety-spectrum disorder) is based upon. Once you have trained yourself to do that automatically (which again, is nothing more than a habit, albeit a positive one), then you will find that youre living your life as normal again! Personally, I do not play computer games that much, but I did purchase one or two during my anxiety/dp and found that they did a lot to help distract me from the condition. Make sure to get games that are enjoyable and addicitive, and that you can also dip in and out of whenever you want. These can be highly entertaining and diverting and give you a good challenge to look forward to for an hour or two each day and, of course, anytime you feel a little anxious! Also, I think that portable games device could be very helpful for anytime you are on the move, especially on buses or planes. Even a basic game like Tetris can keep you occupied and happily diverted for hours!



Socialising is, in my experience, a really great way of getting your mind off anxiety/dp. You may find that going out at night is easier (it was for me) or then again, you may find the daytime more welcoming. But whatever your own experience is, please do try and go out as much as you can because every single time you do, you are desensitizing yourself and retraining your mind. Talk to as many people as you can. Take your minds focus off yourself. Remember that in spite of any anxiety you may feel, that each and every time you go into town, shopping, meeting friends etc is another bit of progress! Go out and have fun with your friends. If you stay in all the time, that will become a habit and one that certainly wont help. And if, on the off-chance you are out with friends and find that youre getting a bit scared, dont worry about it at all. Though I know just how difficult it can be at times, just try your best to forget about it and focus on your surrounding and activities. Theres absolutely nothing to be worried about - just


remind yourself that you are making a valuable contribution towards your recovery. The goal with all of the above is to keep positive information constantly flowing into your eyes and ears: anxiety/dp works like weeds in a garden: left untended, it will grow away on its own. So don't allow yourself time for contemplation, itll only make things seem worse. Keep your mind busy and entertained all the time. This may seem like a funny image, but you have to fill the garden of your mind with colourful flowers and positive imagery and eventually the weeds will be overcome and die away on their own, without you even noticing. The golden rule is: DO THE THINGS YOU ENJOY! In fact you should feel blessed! Out of all the different afflictions that one can get, you have one that is cured not by surgery or years of therapy or anything like that, but rather, by just doing the things you like to do! How great is that??


Dealing With Anxiety / DP Thoughts

Since anxiety/dp is just a habit of thought, all you have to do is change that habit. I know, it seems a lot easier said than done but it can be done, and you are going to do it. Weve already discussed much about the thought processes of anxiety/dp: that its a result of unfocused fear being reflected back onto the sufferer, that consciously trying to not think about it is pointless, etc etc. But lets address some of the feelings, the ideas that anxiety/dp tends to generate, and see if we cant make some sense of them. For example, one specific feeling that these thought processes can generate is the idea that reality has somehow changed. You may, in the past, have come to some very strange conclusions about the nature of the condition. Im no stranger to this either; for a while, I actually entertained the nonsensical thought that was in some sort of purgatory, that I had somehow lost my soul. At one point, I began thinking that maybe I had already died, and that my consciousness was still floating around. Completely ridiculous notions, but in the context of the time, and the fear I was


feeling, I actually gave them some thought. You may also think that something truly dreadful is going to happen, like reality falling apart. Another common thought is that you are somehow going to just disappear altogether.

But just remember this:

These things have not happened, and will not happen.

I promise you that, 100%. And there are no exceptions. Look, I have been to the absolute depths of this condition. I mean, Ive read hundreds upon hundreds of personal accounts, and still consider my own story to be fairly shocking, just in terms of what I experienced, the depression I felt, the thoughts I had, the breakdown of my body and nerves. And guess what??? I came out it completely unharmed. I can tell you right now that no matter how bad you feel, how horrific the thoughts become, that there is absolutely no permanent mental damage, and there is absolutely no permanent physical damage. Fact. Look, literally hundreds of thousands of people have had this condition before you, and none


of them not a single one ever managed to change reality! Its all based on irrational fears created by nonsensical trains of thought. All that anxiety/dp can ever do is make things seem more amplified, more threatening. But reality itself doesnt change. Even if you wanted it to, it couldnt change! All thats happening is that your mind is scared and jumpy at the moment, and seeing danger everywhere (even in the normal philosophical thoughts that everyone has from time to time). I know it can be tough, but just remember that this state is temporary and entirely reversible. You have not changed in any fundamental way. The world has not changed in any fundamental way. You are suffering from an anxiety-based condition that, yes, can be very scary at times, but is actually relatively mild. It is not even close to most other conditions, in terms of the dangers associated with them. I think that may be one of the reasons its not recognised as much as it should be; because as scary as it can get, it is a non-progressive condition, it wont lead to anything worse, and, believe it or not, the fact is that it is simply not that dangerous for the sufferer.


Knowing But Not Feeling One very common way of describing anxiety/dp is like being a state of knowing but not feeling. I said it myself in my own initial description of the condition. For example, people with anxiety/dp might say: I know Im real, and Im still here but I cant feel it. Or, I know Im not going to go crazy or anything but I cant feel it. Well, thats pretty much a perfect analogy of what is physically happening in the brain of the anxiety/dp sufferer; the neocortex (the seat of rational thought) is in overdrive, while the limbic system (the seat of emotion) is very quiet. Remember that! The way you are feeling is not because of some deep, philosophical journey or some horrible disease. Its just a habit that your brain has established, and that you can get back out of. You know that none of those silly existential thoughts are true - - now all you have to do is train yourself back to feeling it! And remember: I have never come across, anyone who has harmed themselves or anyone else because of anxiety/dp. You might have unwanted thoughts like that, but its perfectly ok. I know that when I had anxiety/dp, I had long, seemingly unconnected trains of thought; these sometimes included hurting myself or others. But if you have thoughts like this, all you have to do is put them into perspective:


They are part of a huge train of thought that can include anything and everything. Just because you happen to have one particularly nasty thought, or even recurring thoughts like that, doesnt give them any more credence or importance than anything else. In fact, if anything, this type of thinking just reaffirms that anxiety/dp is a true member of the anxiety spectrum (phobias, obsessive thoughts etc), since obsessive thoughts of hurting yourself or others are extremely common with these conditions. These types of thoughts, just like depersonalization itself, are just a symptom of anxiety. Because theres no black and white here; the fact is people with anxiety can experience a whole range of symptoms - depression, phobias, depersonalization, racing heart, thoughts of self-harm or harming others, etc etc. Though your primary symptom is dp, that doesnt mean that you wont experience others from time to time. What is does mean is that, like Ive already said, dp is not a stand-alone condition. Its just a symptom, and like other symptoms, it will dissipate once you get rid of the cause: the anxiety. And just because your thoughts seem out of control does not mean that your actions will be because there is a big, big difference between the two! Though the anxiety/dp might make you feel that you will physically lose control, the simple fact is that that will never, ever happen.


DP and Anxiety Depersonalization is a symptom of anxiety. I know I must have said it at least ten times already, and Im going to keep saying it, because its so important for you to understand! Of course, being in a pressure situation or breaking ones routine are events that can cause normal levels of anxiety in everyone. But for a person suffering from anxiety/dp, it can seem much, much more frightening than it ever should be. Slight, normal feelings of anxiety can make you focus on feelings of dp, which in turn makes the anxiety worse, which makes you think about the dp moreand so on until you may becomes temporarily debilitated with fear, have a panic attack etc. The thing is that if you can learn to just let the anxiety be, to accept it as something totally natural and understandable, then the anxiety/dp will never get worse than what you might call an acceptable level (i.e., not interfering with the persons thought or actions). And pretty soon after that, you will find that you simply stop taking notice it altogether at which point, you have, well, basically recovered! So if you ever feel like you are getting into the aforementioned nonsensical thought-loop of anxiety/dp (which goes nowhere!), then just remind yourself of what is actually happening. It is simply anxiety and dp (a symtom of anxiety) making each other worse. And if you cant control it you know what? Thats fine.


For the moment, its a perfectly natural reaction. But in time, you will cultivate a positive habit of dealing with it properly, of recognising the total futility of thinking like that at all. For now, all you need to do if you feel scared is to be aware of what is actually happening. Remember, always, that you are absolutely not going crazy (and that's not just an opinion, it's a fact - anxiety/dp never, ever, ever leads to anything worse than itself). It is not something like a tumour that needs to be invasively fixed; it is not a permanent change in your brain. Anxiety/dp is nothing more than a habit, something that your mind has trained itself into - and by definition, it is something that you can train yourself back out of. And bear this in mind - though I was so scared for every moment of my anxiety/dp, when I got out of it, I felt fantastic. Believe me, going through a traumatic experience like yours or mine gives you an amazing perspective on the world that most people will never have. It will make you appreciate love and life like never before, and your confidence will shoot through the roof! Believe me, I wouldn't wish anxiety/dp on anyone, but I am glad to have been through it. I have never been happier, and I promise that when you get better - and you WILL get better - that you'll feel better than ever. I'm telling you all this from the perspective of a person who has been through all of this. And Im telling you, simply, that you will not have it


for the rest of your life. But it's up to you to start getting out of it. So take the first steps to get out of it, and do them today.

Anxiety/DP and Depression

Anxiety/dp is in many ways quite closely related to depression; in fact, a lack of serotonin (a chemical in the brain associated with happiness) is almost invariably a symptom of both conditions. And of course, there is the fact that both conditions are based on forms of obsessive thinking. And yet, these two conditions are vastly different in terms of how people see them. Depression has become a very accepted part of todays society, with a vast range of relatively safe treatments. Depersonalization, in comparison, is relatively unknown in the medical community (and amongst people in general). This disparity in awareness means that people who develop anxiety/dp not only find it very difficult to identify, but also that anxiety/dp is commonly misdiagnosed as


depression. The thing is, though, that since the experience of chronic anxiety/dp can also create a profound sense of depression in the sufferer, the diagnosis is often partially correct. Getting rid of this melancholy can often be a hugely important step in finally getting completely out of the thought-habit of anxiety/dp, so it may be necessary to seek medical treatment in the form of anti-depressants to give you a helping hand (I will discuss these medications in a later section). But another thing the conditions do have in common is this: People with depression dont go crazy, and neither do people with anxiety/dp. Yes, both can be intensely difficult to deal with at times, but people are certainly able to cope. In fact, I believe that it is actually better to have a condition like anxiety/dp than something along the lines of bipolar disorder since anxiety/dp is primarily a thought-habit out of which you can train yourself, whereas bipolarity is based on chemical imbalances that need constant treatment. Anxiety/dp is absolutely not something dangerous like a tumour or a lifelong mental illness. Its a transitory condition, brought on by any number of factors. Indeed, the fact that a great deal of the recovery is actually in your hands is something you can look forward to! Remember I was talking about TV shows earlier? Well, there was a wonderful quote in an episode of one of my favourites series, when one of the characters observed that: Nature


makes us tougher. That statement had a lot of resonance for me at the time, and it still does. Because as scary as the experience of anxiety/dp is, it is natures way of making you tougher. After you get through it all, nothing will ever faze you again like it used to. You will have been through the worst of the worst, you will have survived, and you will appreciate the world so much more.


Anxiety / DP And The Nonsense Illusion One impression that anxiety/dp might give you as it regularly did with me - is that it will make you think that any nasty thoughts you are having now are totally right. It will try and convince you were always deluded about your existence, your life. It will make you think that it is only now that you see the truth, and that everyone else is still deeply misled about the nature of life, of everything. So let me tell you something:

This is utterly false. It is nonsense.

It is nothing but a negative thought-pattern. It works on the same predication as depression: It hijacks your every thought and makes you think that all you are doing in your life is worthless even if you are, in the eyes of others, living a good, healthy, productive life. Even passing philosophical thoughts of life and existence are taken and amplified to a deafening level. But the fact is that just because they are amplified, doesnt make them important. A bad song, played over a huge sound system, is still a bad song! Look - You were not deluded before you had this illness certainly no more than someone with a flu was deluded before they got it, or someone was deluded before they put on a lot of weight. And I promise that you will see the irrefutable proof of this once you get back to normal.


Because heres the good news: When you get back to happiness and normality, everything in your past, even the worst episodes of anxiety/dp will seem like distant memories. Like I said already - when people recover from anxiety/dp they almost always say, What on Earth was I worried about?

Why Anxiety / DP is like the School Bully Dont ever fight with anxiety/dp mentally. Take it from me: Fighting it will only make it worse. Anxiety/dp is like the schoolyard bully who calls people names: If you respond to his taunts with anger or sadness, he knows that he can hurt you and so it will keep happening, day in, day out. But if you simply accept him no matter how difficult that may be, and how persistent the bully may be it will eventually stop. Accepting anxiety/dp is like youre saying to the bully: If you taunted me for the rest of my life, I wouldnt care. You can follow me around and shout in my ears all day if you like, but I am not going to give you the satisfaction of getting upset, frightened or angry with you. I will never fight you, because that will only vindicate your silly taunts. I dont have to pay attention to you. I will not change anything in my life to accommodate you. In fact, if you stuck around me for the rest of my life, I wouldnt care. Thats how strong I am. And what happens? The bully realises that he is wasting his time.


Now, he may be very, very resilient he may know that in the past, he has been able to upset you and frighten you and make you fight back. And he may try for a long time to break you down, to make you pay attention to him again. But eventually, he will stop. He will see that trying to bother or upset you is pointless and hell simply give up. Now on a physical level, you can certainly fight anxiety/dp - with vitamins, supplements, music, hobbies etc. And these are all vitally important to get through the condition. But on the mental level, if you feel it coming on, just let it happen. Let that bully harass you. Let him taunt you. In fact, the worse he gets, the more you accept him and simply get on with your life. Because thats all you ever have to do. That bully will try anything and everything to upset you and all youre going to do is sit there, cool, calm and collected - and let that bully tire himself out. I know that at times it can be scary and feel very lonely. But you know what? The bully will stop, and the anxiety/dp will pass for a while. He will probably try to taunt you again in a while, but you are progressively training yourself to deal with him. You are building up positive thought-habits that will eventually drive that bully away again and again. And guess what that means? It means that on a long enough timescale, the bully will stop completely and your anxiety/dp will stop completely.


Fact: Anxiety / DP Will Not Lead to Anything Worse Heres an essential piece of information, taken from One key phrase in the disorder's ( ) definition is: reality testing remains intact () this is not a psychotic condition. The person knows that something is terribly wrong, and grapples with trying to figure out what it is. If anything, it's the opposite of insanity. It's like being too sane. You become hypervigilant of your existence and things around you. So reality testing remains intact This means that you will not have any sort of hallucination and that you are very much grounded in the same reality as everyone else. It isn't a progressive illness. It is not bound to get worse as time goes by. Anxiety/dp will not cause a stroke, a heart attack or anything even vaguely dangerous like that. And since it is a habit of thought, it is entirely within your power to make it better. it's the opposite of insanity. It's like being too sane. You become hypervigilant of your existence and things around you. So there you have it, in plain black and white. It is not insanity its the opposite. You know exactly whats happening to you and you can get out of it. Unfortunately, the actual effects of this defence mechanism are quite scary to experience. But thats all it is: A defence


mechanism deployed by your mind to keep you safe. And it did what it was supposed to, but now youre going to train it to pull itself back, to calm down and allow you to calm down too!


The 5-Second Rule Heres a wonderful little fact that gave me a huge amount of inspiration and that I regularly give to people suffering from anxiety/dp. You know when you are involved in an activity, whatever it may be, and you suddenly realise that, hang on, youre not thinking about anxiety/dp at all? (But of course, this usually sets you off thinking about it!) Well, guess what? In that short little space of time when you were distracted, you just experienced total recovery. Thats right - if you distracted your mind for five seconds just five short little seconds, then you were totally back to normal, as if no unneccesary anxiety had ever affected you! Thats the power of distraction, and its all you need to recover completely. Because if it can happen for 5 seconds, then that is proof, absolute proof positive, that you have the ability to get out of obsessive thinking (of which anxiety/dp is a type) altogether. All you have to do is cultivate that habit. Keeping yourself busy, and your mind focused on postive habits, will quickly turn that 5 seconds into much, much longer periods of time until eventually the habit is reversed, and you experience general happiness with the occasional 5 seconds of anxiety - - which is how it should be! You know now, with full experience and personal proof, that you can forget about this pointless condition. Why? Because you did it before and you can do it again!


Writing Exercise

This is a very effective exercise for alleviating anxiety/dp, and I want to you to do it right now. Go get a pen and paper. And dont just read over the next part and forget about it this is very important, so do this exercise right now. I want you to make a list of everything positive in your life, including every accomplishment you have ever achieved. If you have a loving family, put that down. If you have good friends, put that down. If you have a good job, put that down. If you have hobbies you enjoy, put them down. If you listen to or play music, put those down. If you have any educational accomplishments (degrees etc), put them down. If you enjoy reading, put that down. If you enjoy writing, put that down. Take your time and make that list as long as you can! Now, heres what I want you to do next. I want you to take that list and put it into the form of a few paragraphs, like a small essay. But write


it using positive, meaningful words like, wonderful, superb, brilliant, etc. Write it like youre really trying to sell yourself! Now, at the end of all great, positive stuff, I want you to write in the following: And even aside from all that, I am being made mentally stronger every day by a temporary condition that is completely within my control. And when I get out of it, which will be soon, I will be so much stronger than before. Though at the moment it can be difficult at times, I will soon look back on it as an incredible experience that gave me a new level of strength and confidence that most people will never know. Now, read over it. Read over it again, this time aloud. Read it over and over again, and keep a copy of it with you at all times. Read over it every morning when you get out of bed. Anytime you feel particularly anxious, take it out and read over it. Anytime you are about to go out (on the town, the cinema, whatever), take time to read over it over and over again until you are practically bored by it! This list contains the facts of your life, and if you are ever in doubt as to any part of it, all you need ever do it take out that list and read over it. Keep adding to it as time passes; put in all your new achievements, everything new and positive in your life that you can think of. Remember this list is a work in progress!


Prioritising School and Work

Soon after I had my first experiences with panic attacks and anxiety/dp, I came home to stay with my parents for a while. I hadnt started the college year yet, and my work playing in a band fortunately allowed me plenty of time to recuperate. I knew, like everyone with anxiety/dp does, that there was something very wrong with me, and I spent weeks on the Internet trying to figure out what that was. I looked into many alternative therapies etc, anything that might help me figure out just what was wrong, and get better. Now, I know that this seems like it may have been a pretty good situation like I had the time and the space to allow myself to heal. Looking back on it now, however, Im not sure that that was actually the case. In fact, for the first few weeks, I had all the time in the world to recover, and yet I didnt get better at all. Why was this? I think now that it was because I didnt have a routine; or at least, if I had one, I removed myself from it. I didnt have a regular work


schedule, and because of this I was able to spend so much time researching the condition, trying so many different therapies. All this pushed me to focus my full concentration on the condition, thereby empowering it and making it worse. I didnt give myself a chance to forget about it. In fact, the only times that I got any relief from it at all would be when I played gigs with my band, and maybe for a few distracted hours afterwards. Indeed, I remember the first gig I played after the anxiety/dp set in. Afterwards, I sat on the couch at home and felt content for the first time in a long time; so happy to be able to escape the feelings of unreality for a while. More importantly, that night showed me that anxiety/dp was absolutely not a self-contained condition, or anything beyond my control. I realised that my activities could affect it directly. That of course depended on a variety of factors, but by far the most important of those were my mood and my activities. When I got back to college for my Masters degree, it was very tough at times. Film Studies required that I watch a lot of strange Surrealist movies that did not sit well at all with my anxiety/dp! And yet, though it was tough at times, it was so great to get my mind focused on a specific goal. If you are attending school or working, try and invest yourself in these activities as much as you can. Because here is something that every anxiety/dp sufferer needs to remember: Even though relaxation is vital to recovery from anxiety/dp, it can at times be all too easy to


say that you just need to do nothing; to just sit in the living room and watch boring television because you dont have the mental energy to do anything else. But the fact is that doing nothing actually expends more mental energy, since by boring yourself you are much more likely to get into an obsessive thought-loop that drains you of all your mental energy, and gets you further into bad thought habits. So, even when you are relaxing, make sure you are doing something that keeps you occupied. Also, it is a very good idea to try and make your regular tasks more interesting. For example, instead of making the same old dinner for yourself this evening, you could look up some new recipes on the Internet and challenge yourself to cook up something exciting (but doable - If like me, your culinary skills go barely beyond eggs and toast, dont try and put together a ten-course meal just yet!). So find your own happy medium between relaxation and work. But however you maintain that balance, make absolutely sure that you keep yourself occupied at all times. Work tends to do that anyway even the most menial job has a tendency to quieten down the mind. Physical and mental relaxation may seem more tempting at first glance, but in fact it tends to generate more negative thought. Keep yourself busy!


The Significance Of Things One specific aspect of anxiety/dp that I found extremely difficult to deal with was the way that the condition seemed to make everything seem hugely important; that is to say, that you could take a look at just about anything, and the context (or significance) of it hits you hard. It suddenly seems to have its own history, its own loud, amplified reasons for being there. For example, I remember that once, I was sitting calmly in the kitchen. Our dog, Twig, walked across the floor in front of me. Suddenly, I felt the universal significance of this act! I was aware of the seeming hugeness of this event, and it truly terrified me. And this happened to me quite regularly. It was actually like real pain, like somebody sticking a needle into your hand at random. I could look at something completely innocuous like, for example, my guitar and the significance of its existence would hit me like a ton of bricks. It was pretty scary, as of course was the thought that this could apply to pretty much anything. But you know what? There is nothing significant about these kinds of thoughts. All it is, is that your brain is on high alert, and believes it is seeing danger all around you. So if you look across the kitchen and see your cute little dog while in this mental state, what happens?


Well, your brain is telling you that there must be danger there somewhere. But youre safe, the dog (or the guitar or whatever!) is not going to hurt you, so where is the fear coming from? Your brain searches desperately for something to pin the anxiety on and since what youre looking at is not scary, the best guess it can make is the very existence of what youre looking at. Isnt that ridiculous? And yet, it makes perfect sense. Its like a last resort for the brain; its saying, I know rationally that theres nothing to be afraid of, but Im still scared for some reason so what could it be? Well, it must be some deep philosophical, existential thing that I can hardly comprehend. And the more the brain tries to comprehend it, to rationalize it (which is completely pointless), the more it ties itself in knots, generating more anxiety, dp and panic attacks. As weird as it may seem, all of this is a perfectly natural reaction for the anxious brain. And dont worry if it happens to you, because it is not permanent. Yes, it can be one of the most difficult parts of dealing with the condition, it certainly was for me. But trust me - it eases and stops altogether as your anxiety/dp decreases. So dont worry - its just one more of the symptoms that will subside with a proper routine and the cultivation of positive thought-habits.


Fluorescent Lights and Vision

I found that when I was suffering from anxiety/dp, I would get much more panicky in places with fluorescent lighting (supermarkets etc) than in others (like bars etc). I have subsequently discovered that this is an extremely common symptom of anxiety/dp. And yes, it might seem strange at first, but there is a very simple physical explanation for the effect. When your body is anxious, it makes the eyes more sensitive to picking up movements, a perfectly natural reaction that dates back to our evolutionary ancestry. How is this done? By dilating the pupils and letting more light in. When our ancient ancestors were out living in forests and caves, surrounded by danger, they had to be super-vigilant. The smallest movement in their peripheral vision could have meant an lethal attack from a predator. The body would react to this by staying in an anxious state, keeping the pupils wide open and alert for danger.


The exact same principle applies to anyone in an anxious state, including those with anxiety spectrum disorders, who experience it consistently; The brain is on high alert for danger, it tells the visual cortex to be on the lookout, which in turn tells the pupils to stay dilated. And of course, when this happens in an environment with fluorescent light (which is very harsh and bright), it seems like there is, literally, almost too much to take in. But dont panic its simply your bodys way of reacting to stress. That one little fact actually explains a lot of the whole visual fear of anxiety/dp of why there seems to be too much going on in the visual field. I used to constantly question what I was seeing, would keep thinking I was looking at a screen, etc. In fact, why is anxiety/dp so often described as like living in a movie? Well, picture yourself inside a movie theatre, sitting very close to the front. You cant see everything on the screen at once, right? Of course not. And its annoying and disconcerting to have to keep moving your gaze and your concentration to different parts of the screen. Theres way too much to take in at once! And its the exact same with anxiety/dp basically, youve just been pushed a little too close to the screen. When your pupils are consistently dilated, theres too much information coming in at once, and your concentration keeps darting around, trying to


keep up with all of this (which explains why, for example, reading a book when you have anxiety/dp can be sometimes quite frustrating). Doesnt that make sense? Its actually really interesting; the anxiety makes you so keenly aware of your own vision that it becomes almost too much to take in. In fact, many people with anxiety/dp often report seeing floaters in their visual field, which is basically something that almost everyone experiences, but few actually notice (Ill speak about this again later on). Of course, when you experience this and werent sure what was happening, it can be scary (it certainly was for me). But again, all you have to remember is that this is a perfectly natural physical response, and your body is simply protecting itself . Its just one more effect that will subside completely once you recover from the anxiety. There is nothing seriously wrong you know that. Now all you have to do is train your mind and body back to feeling that.


Size & Shape Of Objects People with anxiety/dp can sometime report the experience of what seems like changes in the size and shape of objects. This can cause the person to fear that they are hallucinating, that they must have some sort of serious mental problem. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. This is nothing more than an effect of intense concentration in the same way that if you stare at a picture on a wall for a few minutes, it seems to fill up your visual space, or how staring into someones eyes for long periods of time can generate a mild form of hypnosis. This tends to happen much more quickly for people with anxiety/dp, simply because their concentration is so intensified. Its like what I was saying earlier about feeling the significance of something as innocuous as a dog or a guitar We know why we get that feeling, and one of the offshoots is that you might stare at this given object, contemplating it. And what happens? Your concentration suddenly makes it seem much larger in your visual field. And where most people would just look away and forget it instantly, the anxious mind thinks, Am I hallucinating?? and goes off into series of fearful thoughts, maybe even a full-blown panic attack. But the fact remains that its a perfectly natural effect, and the only reason it persists or even seems scary in the first place - is because a disproportionate amount of


attention is being paid to it! And yes, it absolutely, 100% passes during and after recovery, so dont worry about it. Floaters Also, I have noticed on the Internet that some people describe seeing little dots, or floaters moving in their visual field. They are sometimes described as looking like small amoebas. I have even once heard of them being described as a symptom unique to anxiety/dp, which is utterly incorrect. The fact is that (just as with the above discussion of size and shape of objects) if anyone concentrates long and hard enough they can find tiny inconsistencies in their visual field. If you got someone anyone! - to stand, staring a white wall for a few minutes, they would eventually see these so-called floaters too. Everyone has these little variations in their visual field, and they are completely natural its just that most of the time, people are too concerned with moving through their lives as normal to notice them. There was even a joke made about them in an episode of Family Guy, where Peter Griffin tries to focus on the floater, but cant because it keeps moving around! Anxiety/dp, by focusing your concentration back on yourself so much, makes you a lot more likely to pick up on these natural but ultimately irrelevant physical details. It can even seem scary at times, like they have only


appeared since you developed the condition. But just remember: They were always there youve only noticed them since you developed the condition. In fact, the whole idea of floaters seems to me to be a really excellent illustration of the whole effect of anxiety/dp. That is to say, that people with the condition never actually go through anything really different from what unaffected people do. The only difference is that people with anxiety/dp tend to notice every little bit of unnecessary information about everyday experiences that other people are simply able to ignore. During my anxiety/dp, I used to notice floaters all the time too (particularly if I looked up at the sky). But when you start to recover and your body and mind begin to calm down, you will find that you stop noticing irrelevant things like floaters, just as you stop noticing all the other little physical tics that happen naturally. And you start focusing on your normal life, with its normal issues!


Glasses and Contact Lenses

Some people who wear visual aids like glasses and contacts have noted that the stress of anxiety/dp can be reduced by removing them for a while. I wear contacts myself, and found that removing them did in fact produce a calming effect. Why is this? Because by blurring your vision, you are reducing the amount of information that is being received by your visual cortex. This goes to show, yet again, that anxiety/dp is to a large extent dependent on your environment and how you experience/interact with it. It simply proves, yet again, that anxiety/dp is not a mental condition that is somehow beyond your control. (Im just using this effect as an illustration though; I dont recommend that people walk around or God forbid drive their cars without their corrective glasses or lenses in!)


Sunglasses This may seem like a terribly simple solution, but sunglasses can be very effective! If its a sunny day, the brightness outside can mean its an environment where theres a lot to take in and it might cause you to feel anxious. Now, dont get me wrong, Im not saying that you should be wearing shades all the time one could even argue that you should be exposing yourself to as much sunshine and social interaction as possible! But, if you do feel overly tense about venturing outside on a particular day, do try wearing a pair of sunglasses. Not only do they protect your eyes from harmful rays, they will help ease you back into your normal routine. reducing the amount of visual information you encounter and help to calm any anxiety. Try it out!


Changes In Time

Some people with anxiety/dp complain that time sometimes seems distorted to them, that time can seem to go very slowly or even fly by. Also, the ideas of the past and the future can seem bizarre, even scary. I personally remember one particular week during which I had a number of panic attacks because I couldnt stop thinking about the nature of time, how it worked, could it be changed etc. It was scary, but it was also totally pointless because - and this is important! TIME HAS NOT CHANGED. IT IS THE SAME AS IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN, AND IT ALWAYS WILL BE. The thought habit of anxiety/dp is what makes time seem altered. Its the same when you watch a great movie: time seems to fly by, because you are entertained and engrossed in a narrative. But when you are watching a boring film, you are not engaged with it, and are constantly being diverted by your own thoughts.


The length of the film doesnt matter: Its all about the way you are thinking about it. And the same thing goes for regular life: The anxiety/dp thought habit makes it temporarily difficult to engage with life; your concentration can be intense and all over the place at once, so naturally, time can seem much longer or shorter than normal. Also, dont worry yourself about ideas regarding the past or the future. Believe me, my anxiety caused me to contemplate the nature of time intensely, and it really ge ts you nowhere! Look, you are training yourself back to living in the now, and so thats where you must learn to live. The past and the future are simply concepts; but now is all there really is! So enjoy it!

Memories For the anxious mind, memories can sometimes seem distorted too. It may become difficult to recall certain things in the past; I have even heard from people who seem to temporarily forget certain skills, like how to speak in a different language, etc. Of course, this would be a frightening thing for anyone to go through - but you need not worry about it. The only reason that any of that is happening is because of the temporary habit of thought that anxiety/dp has created. Imagine trying to memorize a song from a CD when there are people talking loudly all around you. Of course, its going to be more difficult than usual. Its the same with anxiety/dp, memories


can sometimes be inhibited by the loud thoughts that accompany the condition. Thats also why reading, and concentration in general can often be difficult with anxiety/dp because there are a lot of other thoughts, like radio static, interfering with your attention span. Also, if you happen to be trying to perform a skill, recall a memory etc when you experience a period of intense anxiety, it can sometimes make it temporarily difficult to do so again while in a similar anxious state. You see, anxiety works primarily through a process of anchoring. That is, if you feel scared while doing or thinking about something in particular, its quite possible that you might associate the fear with performing that activity. It can cause phobias, like a fear of flying, or of closed spaces. But lets say you are trying to speak Spanish (or say, taking a Spanish language test) when you experience a panic attack or intense anxiety. Now of course, one has nothing to do with the other. Speaking Spanish does not cause anxiety! But because of the process of anchoring, the language gets associated with fear and anxiety. There is no actual link between the two other than, at some point in time, you happened to experience the two simultaenously but without understanding it, the association can remain. So the next time a fellow student or whoever strikes up a conversation with you in Spanish, you may start to feel that anxiety again. Your


brain goes into fight or flight mode - - and suddenly, the last thing its in a position to do is to start recalling a foreign language! This may be perceived this as some sort of loss of memory, and cause even more panic and fear. But the fact is that nothing could be further from the truth. Of course the information is all still there its just that the process of inadvertantly anchoring the anxiety to the information has made it slightly more difficult to retrieve. Sure, its annoying Any time you want to do your thing, perform your activity, whatever, you get suddenly anxious (seemingly without cause) and it can impede whatever it is youre trying to do. But all you have to remember is that whats happening is perfectly natural. Its your brains defensive systems working just as they should, except that they are working at the wrong time! And because this defensive reaction is something totally natural and understandable, it can be changed. Again, all you have to do is make new positive habits, new anchors. So keep doing your activities as if nothing was wrong. Eventually, you will retrain your brain to understand that nothing is wrong - and youll find, very quickly, that you were actually fine all along: You can deal with anxiety, get rid of negative informational anchors, and are perfectly capable of doing anything you want!


Neck and Shoulder Pain Some people suffering from anxiety/dp, myself included, have complained of pain in the neck and shoulder area. For me, it seemed to appear at just the same time as I developed anxiety/dp, and stayed with me for a few weeks. As time went by, it came and went, though I recognised quite quickly that the more anxious I felt, the more prevalent it became. It actually scared me an awful lot, since I thought in my panicked state that I had somehow developed some sort of muscular disease. In retrospect, however, its obvious that this pain is merely a natural physical reaction to the stresses your mind is going through. Since your thoughts are racing and you feel on edge all the time, your muscles tense up accordingly. This is usually manifested most obviously in your neck and shoulders (remember that physiotherapists often look for knots in the upper back and shoulders as signs of tension). Also, if your lifestyle has been stressful even before you developed anxiety/dp, your muscles may have been tense already without your even noticing. The onset of anxiety/dp just makes it twice as bad as it was, causing what seems to be a sudden pain without any cause. But this feeling, along with every other symptom will pass as the anxiety/dp fades away. In the meantime, make sure that you sleep in a comfortable bed, with a good pillow (Also, make sure that you sleep on your back


or on your side; sleeping on your chest can create awkward head and neck positions. And if the problem persists, you can always purchase orthopaedic pillows from various websites.)

A Clean Environment

One of the feelings most common to anxiety/dp is that there is too much happening at any one time. This, as weve already noted is at least partially due to the dilation of the pupils caused by anxiety. One simple way to relieve this, at least a little, is to be in a clean environment. I remember that during my experience with anxiety/dp, if I came h ome after college or work and the house was in a mess, I would start to feel more anxious than usual. This was probably due the aforementioned problem of there being too much information, and also just the natural stress/annoyance of living in a dirty place. So, try and keep all of your living space as clean as you can. Explain your situation to


anyone living with you; just let them know that keeping the place a bit cleaner than usual would be very helpful to you. And dont forget, just the very act of cleaning up can be a great way to get your mind off the anxiety/dp and practice your concentration on doing something productive.

Personal Hygiene With anxiety/dp (or any anxiety disorder), it can seem very tempting to not keep up your personal hygiene habits, to just let yourself go a bit. After all, you are sick, right? And sick people are allowed to stay in bed, to not shower regularly, exercise, dress properly etc. It seems one of the only benefits of being sick; the knowledge that for the moment, theres no pressure on you to keep up your usual daily habits. I know that I used that excuse for many weeks after I initially developed anxiety/dp. And yes, that can be a very comforting thing when you are suffering from most physical ailments. However, in the context of any anxiety-spectrum disorder, its an extremely negative way of thinking and it will only make the anxiety/dp worse. In a sense, doing this is actually drawing your focus onto the


anxiety/dp, since you are physically allowing it to affect your life. Its basically the same thing as letting yourself sit for hours watching boring TV it might seem like the easier thing to do, but in fact it promotes exactly the kind of introspection that anxiety/dp thrives on and in the long run it will only make things worse. So, though it might seem easier to not to jump into the shower every day, go for it anyways! Dont leave your pyjamas on all day; put on clean clothes. Keep yourself looking neat and tidy. I know it may seem like a clich, but the fact is that your physicality and mental state are intensely interdependent, and taking care of one means taking care of the other. Youll look, and more importantly feel much better when youre clean and tidy, and plus, itll give you a solid routine to look forward to every day. Personally, I found that a good time to take a shower or bath is right before going to bed. It calms you down nicely and makes your body tired and prepared for rest. Take good care of your appearance in general. Look as good as you can every day! Wear clothes that are comfortable and that look well on you, especially youre going out. Eventually this habit of outward confidence will soak into your mind and you will start to feel better.


Food and Drink

As Ive said, one of the many ways to get out of anxiety/dp is to train your concentration. And a great way of doing this is by focusing on bettering yourself physically. It gives you goals, and something very worthwhile to work at every day. Your food intake is absolutely of paramount importance here. You are what you eat, as they say, and that has never been truer than within the context of an anxiety disorder. I often found that I felt more anxious if I haven't eaten a proper meal at the regular time; and if something as small as that can have a big effect, imagine what a whole dietary change can do! It is so important to watch your diet carefully. The main thing is to eat well to keep your body satisfied. The last thing you need if you are getting out of anxiety/dp is to have a body that is suffering from a lack of sustenance. So eat at least three good meals a day, every day.


However, there are still certain types of food and drink that can specifically help or hinder you when coming out of anxiety/dp.


Ok this is extremely important: You absolutely must cut caffeine out of your diet. Coffee, soft drinks and even regular tea have high caffeine levels that will aggravate anxiety/dp. Plus, taken late in the day, they also tend to disrupt sleep patterns, which can have a huge effect on levels of anxiety/dp. Taking caffeine out of your diet completely will be a huge step forward for you in terms of your recovery. And Im not just talking about avoiding it before bedtime Im talking about not touching the stuff at all in the long term. I used to be a devout coffee drinker, drinking the equivalent of eight cups a day (four cups with two teaspoonfuls of coffee in each one!). I used to think that this was a positive habit, that it somehow fuelled my sense of creativity. However, my psychologist told me afterwards that this had probably been one of the biggest contributing factors to my panic attacks and


anxiety/dp. And in fact, as Ive already said, one of my worst mistakes throughout my whole experience was that when it first started, I though it was like a heavy drowsiness so I thought the way out was to drink even more coffee than usual. Of course, this aggravated my anxiety to levels even worse than before. If you are used to drinking coffee in the mornings, it might be a little difficult at first to not get that kick. But trust me, after a few days you will notice your body getting used to not having that caffeine buzz, and getting back to a normal, healthy routine. Caffeine almost certainly wasnt the sole cause of your developing an anxiety-spectrum condition, but it could have been a contributing factor and it might be perpetuating it still. Its certainly not helping it anyway, thats for sure! So what you need to do for the moment, at least is cut out these possible perpetuating factors until the anxious thought-habit is gone for good. If at that point you want to start drinking (sensible amounts of) caffeine again, thats totally fine! And if you really, really cant do without your coffee right now just remember, you can get decaffeinated tea or coffee in any decent store and it tastes exactly the same as the real thing!


Salty Foods Ok, we all know that salt makes certain things taste better. But, it also has some immediate bad effects on your body. Firstly, it increases heart pressure something you absolutely dont need when trying to get rid of anxiety/dp. Secondly, salt depletes potassium in the body, an essential element for a properly-functioning nervous system. Also, bear in mind at all times when preparing food that many processed goods are salted already when you buy them, so dont just cut down on the salt shaker at mealtimes watch what you eat carefully. Cut salt out of your diet as much as you can. Your brain and your body will thank you for it in the long term!


Candy, Chocolate and Sweet Foods

Everyone loves chocolate and sweets, and Im a big fan myself. However, these again are bad for anxiety/dp. As they are digested, they cause big variations in blood-sugar levels, which can set off anxiety and moodswings. So for the moment, stay away from sweet foods! Now I know you might be thinking: This really sucks. If I didnt have anxiety/dp, I would still be able to eat all these tasty foods. And that might be fair enough, but look at it this way: All these foods are basically, not very good for you anyway. By cutting them out of your diet, you are cleansing your body and brain, and helping to bring them back to their best. In fact, by the time you recover from anxiety/dp, your general health should be better than ever. When you recover completely, of course, you can get back a moderate diet, enjoy the odd treat etc, like youve probably always done. But just for the time being, look at anxiety/dp as an opportunity for a detox of sorts its your bodys way of telling you that it needs to be rid of all these impurities.


Soda Water

Though you might think that soda water is somewhat in the same category as soft drinks, in fact the opposite is true. The carbon dioxide in soda water is actually very good for you, since anxious people tend to have low levels of it in their blood. It is also good for preventing hyperventilation and helps the bloodflow in general. You should be drinking plenty of water every day (soda or regular); keeping your body hydrated is essential for overall health.

Fruit and Veg / Fresh Food In general, fruit and vegetables are an essential part of any good diet and therefore very good for diminishing anxiety/dp. Eat plenty of spinach, carrots, onions, beetroot, celery, wholegrain cereals, asparagus, avocado, garlic, eggs, fish etc. And try and buy the freshest food possible; the less processed, the better!


Not Hungry? Loss of appetite is a very common symptom of anxiety/dp - I had it myself; at one point, I literally did not eat anything for days on end. It was horrible - I lost a dangerous amount of weight, since the very sight of food put me off eating it, no matter how badly my body needed it. This effect is not uncommon and is simply due to the fact that when your body thinks it is in danger, it sends blood away from the stomach and digestive system, and to the muscles of the limbs so you can run away from whatever danger is around. The end result is that you may not feel hungry at all, even though you stomach may be empty and even rumbling loudly! Of course, this, like every other symptom, will pass completely as you begin to get out of the thought-habit of anxiety/dp. But in the meantime, it is of paramount importance that you keep your body sustained. So if you dont feel like eating at mealtimes, thats perfectly ok, but do make sure to drink a mealreplacement shake. These contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals that you would get from proper meal. They are quite popular and available in most good health / sports shops. If you dont have one nearby, they are also available over the Internet from various sites, so Google it. So make yourself a nutrition drink and have it at your leisure! You are giving your body


exactly what it needs to recover from anxiety/dp completely.


In my experience, health and vitamin supplements are absolutely vital to recovery from anxiety/dp. Indeed, a deficiency of one or more of these vitamins could have been a major contributing factor in the development of the condition in the first place. In the following section, I will briefly go through the supplements most beneficial to anxiety/dp and explain their benefits. These supplements are usually available in health stores. If you dont have one locally, they can be ordered from the Internet. 1. Vitamin B6 & 12 Vitamin B6 and 12 are very important for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system, which, I dont have to tell you, is essential for control of anxiety. They are needed for the maintenance of myelin, the fatty substance that protects the nerves, and are generally good for dealing with fatigue. Vitamin B deficiencies can be


caused by a number of factors, primarily stress and anxiety. This, in turn, can cause increased anxiety, loss of appetite and insomnia all of which can make anxiety/dp worse. Remember to be patient with it if you have developed a deficiency, it can take time to build your Vitamin B levels back up. 2. Calcium A regular intake of calcium is necessary for the healthy maintenance of nerves and muscles. 3. Magnesium Magnesium supplements are good for the heart, for the blood flow, and can help prevent anxiety and stress. Magnesium can also help to relieve insomnia and depression. (All of the above can be found together in good multivitamin supplements.) 4. Omega 3 Oils Ok listen carefully: I cant even begin to stress how important these oils are for mental health. They contain fats that are necessary for healthy brain activity, and the body cannot produce them on its own. They need to be a part of our diet, and the best way to get them is by eating fish. Unfortunately, our modern diets have processed these fats out of our foods almost completely.


The best way to get these oils into your diet is by eating plenty of fresh fish. However, you can get the same benefits by taking a good Omega-3 supplement every day. These oils really are natures gift to mental health; they are great for treating and preventing depression and anxiety. So if youre not taking them already, start today.


Meditation / Yoga Etc

Ive read in many places that anxiety is the product of a stressed mind, and that techniques like yoga, meditation etc are good for calming down and getting back to a rested mental state. And this may be true but I do think that with certain anxiety spectrum disorders, anxiety/dp being one of them, that its not the best approach. I used to practice yoga and meditation regularly before my anxiety/dp experience. So, after I developed the condition, I naturally turned to these practices again to help things even my doctor recommended it. But to be perfectly honest, they didnt help at all in fact, I felt pretty bad during and after doing it. Though it seemed like a good idea at the time, in retrospect, the last thing I should have been doing was engaging in practices that tend to focus ones concentration on thought processes.


Thats not at all to say that yoga, meditation etc are not useful tools they most certainly are. But they are best employed by people trying to access an alternate state of consciousness. The person with anxiety/dp, on the other hand, is trying to get back to a normal, regular state. In short, you are basically trying to move away from the whole realm of self-examination. Meditation, yoga etc promote reflection and self-examination again, all wonderful things, but, not, at least for the time being, for someone with anxiety/dp. To get away from anxiety/dp, you are trying to train yourself out of introspection, out of the constant mind chatter that accompanies the condition. For example, the idea of using a mantra, repeating a word, sentence or sound until it clears the mind is fine for most. But you know the way that if you repeat a word over and over again, or stare at an object long enough it seems to lose its meaning? That level of intense concentration seems to be a mini version of the anxiety/dp experience. So, speaking from my own experiences, I would advise against these practices, at least until you get completely better. Indeed, Id recommend staying away from any texts that discuss meditation, psychology etc. These tend to provide anxiety/dp with more material to contemplate. Stick with narratives, stories, easy reading, easy TV, easy movies just for the time being!


And just for the record since my recovery, Ive been back to reading books about psychology, meditation etc. If youre into that stuff, you can of course get back into it, just stick with stuff thats a little less intense for now!



A lot of people with anxiety/dp sometimes find that looking in the mirror can seem particularly distressing. It can seem strange to see a normal person looking back at you, when you feel anything but normal. I think that this has something to do with the fact that in general, its very easy to just stare at yourself in a mirror, to look at your own eyes, your own facial expressions etc. But essentially, its the same effect as looking at something anything for an extended period of time or even repeating a word over and over again. The image, or the word, seems to briefly lose its meaning as the person slips into a mildly hypnotic state. Remember, this happens to everyone it just seems to happen a little more quickly for people with anxiety/dp. But if this loss of meaning happens when youre looking at your own face, then it may seem to compound, and even verify any feelings of unreality you may have. So,


because of this totally natural effect, sped up by feelings of anxiety, you might start to think, Who am I really? - when what you should actually be concentrating on is washing your teeth!! In fact, the mirror symptom is so commmon, so regular a symptom of anxiety/dp that it's like what a sneeze is to a flu! Think about that: Almost every person who has had this temporary condition has experienced that fear of mirrors. Isnt that incredible? And at the same time, doesnt it utterly defuse the fear?? Because, if its a common symptom, and almost everyone with this type of anxiety has had it that means that there is nothing special about it whatsoever. It means that all of the so-called existential fear etc is totally baseless. There is no difference between someone with a fear of, say, cats, and someone with a fear of mirrors. They both make just as much sense that is to say, none whatsoever.

So dont stand around staring at your own face. But dont avoid the mirror either. Just go about your business (bathroom and otherwise!) as normal. There is nothing wrong. The world is as it should be! Dont accommodate silly fears of things like mirrors, cats, whatever - anything you know in your heart that you should not be afraid of. And even if you do feel afraid, dont let it affect your outward behaviour for one minute.


As Ive said keep yourself occupied and entertained. If youre shaving or washing your teeth, thats cool have some music on in the background, sing away to yourself, whatever. Stay occupied! Dont give the anxiety/dp time to grow as a thought habit. Keep living your life as if you felt no anxiety whatsoever; thats the only way you will teach your brain that there is no actual danger to be afriad of, and that it doesnt have keep maintining this pointless state of anxiety.


One particular element that seems to aggravate anxiety/dp is anything that seems quite unfamiliar. Thats one of the reasons I believe you must get into a solid daily routine it calms the mind, lessens anxiety etc. Travelling is not something that helps this. Being in an unfamiliar environment, even if its quite safe, can seem threatening at times for the person with anxiety/dp. As I said in the introduction, the toughest time for me from the


whole experience was when I attended a family marriage abroad. Even though I was surrounded by loving friends and family, the unfamiliar environment seemed constantly intimidating. So, I did have a particular fear of travelling for a long time after that incident. The funny thing was, that people kept assuming that I had a fear of planes, of flying. But that wasnt the case at all it was just the act of going to somewhere unfamiliar that scared me so much. I had to do a lot of work on that, and resolved to keep travelling (small trips at a time) until the fear dissipated altogether, which of course, it did. But regardless of whether you have that particular fear or not, I certainly recommend doing as much travelling as possible. Take every opportunity you can to jump in a plane, train or automobile and see places you havent been to! Its an extremely powerful way to teach your brain that its irrational fears about the world are totally baseless. And not only that, but when you travel, you tend to keep busy all the time, right? For me, at least, theres nothing quite as mentally stimulating as trekking across a city, map in hand, trying to find some particular museum or landmark. You are totally engaged with the experience, totally focused on getting to your goal! And I dont think I need to tell you that there is nothing better for getting rid of anxious feelings than


being totally focused on something productive like that. And just as a brief postscript to the above I have been doing plenty of travelling since I got out of anxiety/dp, (America, Latvia, Hungary Spain, Africa) and I enjoy it just as much I used to!


Ok guys This is important. Here follows a golden rule for every anxiety/dp sufferer: You absolutely must stay away from every type of illegal drug. Indeed, its often drugs themselves that can trigger anxiety/dp in the first place. This can happen either during the drug experience itself, or some time afterwards. Drugs that are particularly associated with anxiety/dp are marijuana and ecstasy; indeed, marijuana can bring on the anxiety/dp state almost immediately for many people, and long-term use of it can be extemely dangerous.


Dont get me wrong, Im not going to start a drug-bashing diatribe here but these substances are absolutely not what the person in an anxious state needs. (Indeed, a great many cases of anxiety/dp occur amongst students. This could also be related to the stresses of college life etc, but is also almost certainly linked to the drug intake associated with this period of many peoples lives). Ecstasy (or MDMA), in particular, can be very dangerous. The effect it produces is to flood the brain with serotonin, the chemical neurotransmitter associated with happiness and good moods. The problem is that for days and even weeks afterwards, the brains serotonin levels are dangerously depleted, leaving the user very susceptible to panic attacks, anxiety etc. In fact, having low levels of serotonin is one of the main symptoms associated with anxiety/dp and various panic disorders, and what many anti-anxiety medications try to alleviate. So stay away from the stuff! Though LSD has more of a psychological effect than ecstasy, it can still be quite dangerous. A bad trip can be intensely scary, and can become the cause of panic attacks (which are associated with anxiety/dp) for some time afterwards. Also, remember that even a good trip can sometimes, but not often, result in the same effects. Also, Ketamine, or Special K, has been particularly associated with anxiety/dp. Though generally used as a tranquiliser for animals, the drug, when taken by humans,


generates particularly dissociative effects it artificially generates many of the symptoms of anxiety/dp (even to the extent that it can produce out-of-body experiences). And I know I dont need to tell you that a drug that actually causes these effects should not be touched! The bottom line is this: All these illegal drugs are designed to produce altered states of consciousness in the user. And thats something that someone with anxiety/dp absolutely does not need. Youre trying to calm your nervous system down, to get back to normal thought processes so dont take anything into your body that might hinder that process. That goes for caffeine, marijuana, ecstasy, ketamine, LSD etc etc.


Note 1: If you have friends who use drugs, it is very important to remove yourself from that lifestyle as much as possible. It has been reported on some forums that for people with marijuanainduced anxiety/dp, even the smell of the drug can trigger strong associative memories of being high. Of course, this is pretty far from the effects of actually taking the drug, but the goal of all this training is to distance yourself as much as possible from the feelings of anxiety/dp for as long as possible, so that your brain gets used to more positive thoughthabits. So dont take any risks!

Note 2: I have noticed that on some forums, a few people have been trying to use recreational drugs as a way to try and cure anxiety/dp. I cannot even begin to stress how imperative it is that you do not try this. Even if there were some positive results possible, there are no specific techniques defined to achieve this. If the attempt went wrong, you could be left in a worse state than when you started. So please, just stick to a strict regime of mental and physical health and you will get out of anxiety/dp the safe way!


Feelings of Guilt

If your anxiety/dp has come on because of taking drugs, you may feel quite guilty; thinking that this is somehow your own fault. Remember: It is not your fault! Its nobodys fault. Often, the drug may have been a catalyst the metaphorical straw that broke the camels back. Its quite possible that the stresses in your life were building up anyway, and that you were about to suffer a panic attack, depression or anxiety/dp (if you had not experienced one or more of these already). The drug simply sped up that process. But regardless of whether or not the drug alone brought on the anxiety/dp, or whether it just hurried up the manifestation of the stresses that were already happening the end result is always the same a self-defense mechanism of the brain that becomes overactive and stays longer than it should - but that is temporary in every case, if you know how to deal with it. It doesnt matter


whether it was drugs, or some sort of trauma, the loss of a loved one, a seemingly unexplained panic attack, whatever the resultant anxiety/dp is always the same and, most importantly it is always reversible, so dont worry! And whatever you do, dont feel guilty about anything. As we have established and repeated many, many time over in this book, anxiety/dp is a natural reaction. It is not something that can be anybodys fault, anymore than getting, for example, a bad dose of the flu is anybodys fault. Your body simply reacted to stresses in a natural way, it and it is now up to you to train it back to normality. Look at it this way: This is your bodys way of telling you that you need to better handle stress in the future, and also to stay away from any substances that may aggravate it. All you need to do is heed this advice, make the necessary changes in your lifestyle, and soon youll be back to normal. I remember feeling so terribly guilty after I developed anxiety/dp; constantly thinking that I had brought it on myself, that Id been stupid and reckless with my life and that I was going to pay the price for that for the rest of my life. But you know what? That type of thinking is totally wrong in every case, regardless of what brought on the anxiety/dp, be it drugs, trauma, whatever. And not only that, but that type of woe is me! thinking will only make you feel worse, since it focuses you more on the anxiety itself.


So dont feel sorry for yourself. Dont feel angry with yourself. There is a very attractive, romantic element to ones own victimhood, but I guarantee you, from the perspective of someone who has been through it, that it will get you absolutely nowhere. It is nothing more than self-involved thinking, and it will happily stay with you as long as you allow it to. Dont think of this whole experience as a mistake, or someones fault. Its a great lesson to learn, so just be happy about it! And also, remember that no matter what the cause of the anxiety/dp, the condition is essentially the same. There is no difference between marijuana-induced anxiety/dp and the same condition caused by general stress levels and so, the approach to getting out of it will always be the same.



Ive read in a number of places that alcohol is one of the few drugs that can temporarily alleviate anxiety/dp. And I would actually tend to agree; a few drinks can certainly help you to relax and forget the thought patterns of the condition for a while (again, proof positive that once you get rid of these thought-habits, you will recover completely!). That said, however, you must be extremely careful when it comes to levels of alcohol consumption. The problem is that: A: Alcohol tends to disrupt sleep patterns. If consumed early in the day, it can cause drowsiness and cause you to go to sleep early. If consumed at night, it can cause erratic sleep throughout the night, and waking too early or late in the morning. One of the primary goals when getting out of any anxiety-related disorder is getting your sleeping patterns back into a good, regular state so it goes without saying that taking anything into your body


that might disrupt that is probably not a good idea. Aside from all that, there is B: the more obvious problem of the hangover. Hangovers are usually a nasty feeling anyways, both in the head and in the body. They can cause headaches, sickness, lethargy and even brief bouts of depression things which the person with anxiety/dp should be trying to avoid at all costs. In fact, the feeling of dizziness that regularly accompanies a bad hangover can be perceived by the anxious mind as depersonalization. I know that when anxious, I often experienced that feeling after having had a few too many drinks the night before. So thats the trade-off: Drinking can alleviate anxiety/dp temporarily, but the subsequent effects can make you feel worse. I would say that if you are determined to drink, then only have one or two drinks at the very most, depending on your tolerance. But if you can manage it, dont drink at all. It will benefit you in the long run! And if youre the social type who likes to go out regularly to have a few drinks with friends, dont worry one bit youll be able to do all that again once youve receovered. And just to reiterate: If alcohol can temporarily alleviate anxiety/dp, then what does that that tells us? Well, it says, yet again, that anxiety/dp is nothing more than a temporary state a combination of a transitory imbalance


of brain chemicals and thought-habits - and a state that is absolutely, 100%, changeable. The practices that you are now implementing into your life are all contributing towards making that change and making it permanently!


Part III: Research & Medication


Misdiagnosis and Medication

Anxiety/dp must surely be one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions in the world. Even my own doctor had, literally, no idea what the condition was. He told me, as Im sure many others like myself have been told, that I was just a bit down on myself, and that Id get out of it. This was in spite of the fact that Id told him in detail about my initial panic attack and the subsequent feeling of floating around, as I put it; a classic case of anxiety/dp at least, to somebody familiar with the condition. And thats just my story; I would say that of all the emails I have received from people who have read this book, at least 50% of them mention that their first visit to a doctor was almost totally pointless, or even outright distressing. And who can blame them for being scared? What could possibly be more disconcerting than going to a qualified medical practitioner, describing a horrible condition to them, only to have them react with confusion;


or worse, diagnosing it as something it patently is not? One of the reasons it is so regularly misdiagnosed is a general lack of awareness of it in the medical community. The fact that the feelings are so difficult to describe accurately makes it all too easy for a doctor to think that the condition is simply a general depression. It can become extremely frustrating to go to a doctor who tries to explain away your symptoms with a quick diagnosis of depression or just low-level anxiety, especially when you yourself are aware that your condition is different. (The irony of that is that it actually is anxiety thats causing the strange feelings and thoughts; though when the diagnosis doesnt appear to take into account the feelings of dp, with which the doctor may be unfamiliar, it can seem as if the diagnosis is totally wrong.) This lack of familiarity with the condition also means that there has been relatively little research into it and how to treat it. Doctors simply dont know nearly as much about anxiety/dp as they do about depression and other, more easily recognisable anxiety disorders. That said, there are many medications that can treat the various symptoms of anxiety/dp, and that can be a huge help to the person trying to recover from the condition.


SSRIs & Benzodiazepines The most common type of medication recommended for the symptoms associated with anxiety/dp (that is, general symptoms related to anxiety and/or depression) are known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These are a newer type of antidepressant that build up levels of serotonin in the brain over time. Among their advantages is the fact that they have relatively few side effects, compared to older medications. SSRIs are an extremely common prescription drug, and have helped countless people suffering from various disorders, including anxiety/dp. However, you must remember that with most anti-depressant medications like these, you must take them for at least two and a half months before you can properly judge if they are working for you. As difficult as it may seem, you must be patient! It is also worth noting that some people experience increased levels of depression when they begin their course of medication; however, this will ease off as your body gets used to the drug. It is very important to remember that different people react in different ways to medications. It is often the case that if you try a medication for a while, it may not work as well for you as it should. If this happens, dont worry simply try another. People frequently have to try a number of medications (or combinations thereof) before they find the one that works best for them.


Another type of medication prescribed for the symptoms associated with anxiety/dp are known as Benzodiazepines (Valium and Librium are examples). These drugs are relaxants, and have been known to help people with high levels of anxiety. I was prescribed a short course (two weeks) of these drugs soon after explained my symptoms to a doctor. However, I did not finish it; I found that Benzos made me feel even more mentally groggy than I had been, making the anxiety/dp worse. That said, they do seem to work for some people, so dont let my negative experience put you off considering them (Its also worth noting, however, that Benzos have addictive properties, so it is wise not to stay on them for too long). As I have said, medications can be very effective in treating the various symptoms of anxiety/dp. I personally found that my medication (an SSRI anti-depressant) helped very much with certain symptoms. However, it is still very much up to the individual to train themselves out of the thought-habit of the condition. No medication can do that for you on its own.


Coming Off Medication People can often find that once they come off their medication, that the symptoms of anxiety/dp can return. This is usually because while they may have benefited from the calming of the symptoms, they have not actually dealt with the core of the problem, which is the negative thought-habit. All that medications can ever really do is ease the symptoms of the condition in doing so, they can provide you with a window, an opportunity to make the necessary changes in your life that will end the thought-habits for good. If you choose to use medication to aid your recovery, just remember that thats all it is: An aid, but not the cure itself. Because at the end of the day, medication or no, it is still up to you to get out there and live your life as normal until your brain relearns that all of those irrational fears are just that: Irrational, and utterly without basis. Also, this is a very important point, and one with which I have had personal experience. If you have been taking SSRI anti-depressants to help cope with anxiety/dp, remember that as with all courses of medication, you must be careful and vigilant when coming off them. Whatever you do, dont simply cut them out when you have finished the course or even if you do start to feel completely better. Consult your doctor or psychiatrist about stopping the medication. The most common way to end a


course of medication is to taper the dosage off until the brain gets used to functioning properly without it again.

St. Johns Wort If, for whatever reason, you do not wish to (or cannot) go on standard medications, then I would absolutely recommend that you try using St. Johns Wort instead. This is a plant that grows wild, and has been used as a medicine in various forms for centuries. As a medication, it can work very well for people with depression and / or anxiety disorders, without many of the unwanted effects of prescription drugs. After I had recovered from anxiety/dp and tapered off the SSRIs completely, I began taking St. Johns Wort every day. Though strengths may vary, the usual dosage taken is three capsules per day, 300 mg each (standardized to contain 0.3% hypericin). However, it can take up to six weeks to start working, so again, you need to be patient. St. Johns Wort is good for anxiety/dp because it deals with mild depression and anxiety; symptoms that regularly accompany and precipitate anxiety/dp. In fact, in Germany more than fifty percent of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders are treated with St John's Wort! Note: Never take St. Johns Wort while on a course of SSRIs (or vice versa) or quickly switch from one to another. These medications


are known to act on the same part of the brain serotonin levels so one may actually negatively interfere with the other.

DP Websites and Reading Reactions

One very common symptom of anxiety/dp is that when you read about it or discuss it, a negative or positive slant can intensely aggravate or ease the condition. Generally, the trend seems to be that if you read something negative, like someone on an Internet forum, describing a very bad experience for example, the anxiety/dp tends to get worse. Whereas reading something positive, like a recovery story tends to make you feel better. I personally found this to be a very obvious symptom; it seemed to happen like clockwork. And again, its just more proof that the condition is extremely changeable, and as such, can be recovered from completely. I mean, if you can feel better for a few minutes, then you can feel better for the rest of your life: Its just a matter of habit!


In fact, it seems strange to me that many of the books/articles/forums that discuss anxiety/dp tend not to address this, or to even have some sort of disclaimer or introduction that tells the reader this before they proceed (especially for people new to the condition). Regardless, it becomes the responsibility of the person with anxiety/dp to bear this in mind at all times. For example, if you see a post on the Internet with a heading like Feeling Terrified, be very wary of reading the full text, as there is a very good chance it could leave you feeling miserable for the rest of the day. The fact is that its often hard enough to cope with the negative thoughts, without logging on to a website and reading someone elses negative thoughts!! For example, I first identified that I had the condition when I stumbled across some anxiety/dp websites. At first, I was truly delighted to find that I actually had what was a recognised condition. But my enthusiasm quickly fell away when I began to see the posts from people saying that theyd had the condition for ten or more years, that they felt constantly terrible, etc. Suddenly, I felt worse than ever. How could I possibly put up with ten more years of this? Well, as Ive said before, I think that everybody who has had anxiety/dp for any long period of time has simply not found the correct way to get out of it. They have simply not established the positive thought-habits that will overrule the negative with enough practice. And even though it in some ways it can be very beneficial


to vent your sadness and frustration with the condition to others who can relate, the fact is that anxiety-related disorders feed off that kind of self-analysis. They only continue to exist beyond the initial trauma that caused them because they are being analysed and contemplated constantly. And when you stop doing that, you will get better. So can you see how going to these types of websites is so counter-productive? Because wallowing in your own misery will not make anxiety/dp better. And wallowing in the misery of others will certainly not make anxiety/dp better. In fact, it will prolong it. You need to be positive, positive, positive, all the way, and those types of websites will not help you.


Long Term Anxiety / DP Some people have suffered from anxiety/dp for much longer than I did; indeed it can affect some people for years at a time. This does not mean that people are affected with different types of anxiety/dp that stay longer than others; its always the same basic condition, no matter what. Not having recovered simply means that you have not found the correct thought-habits to get out of it. The thing is, that it can be so tempting to deal with anxiety/dp by logging onto the websites every day, to read every book you can about the disorder, to go to every doctor in your area who you think might be able to help. It is less tempting, but much easier, to simply try and forget about it and get on with your life. The thing with anxiety/dp, as with any other type of anxious / obsessive thinking, is that there is absolutely no point in trying to suppress it, analyse it or get rid of it. As I have already noted, telling yourself "Today, I am not going to think about anxiety/dp " is the same as saying "Today, I will not think about pink elephants". The brain doesnt operate in terms of negatives (I wont, I shouldnt etc) it simply looks at the statement and picks out the key words, Pink Elephant, Depersonalization, etc, and registers them. Its a trick commonly used in advertising to convey the supposed attractiveness of the product.


So by acknowledging that you dont want to think about the condition, you are already registering a negative association; that is to say, you shouldnt be thinking about the condition at all. And the only way to achieve that is to completely steamroll the possibility of having negative thought by keeping your mind constantly occupied with positive, productive thoughts. Its the only way!! Yes, it might be slightly more difficult for someone who has had anxiety/dp for 10 years (thinking negative thought-habits every day) to re-establish positive thought habits - but only in the same way that someone who has been overweight for 10 years (bad eating-habits every day) or smoking for 10 years (a nicotine habit every day) finds it more difficult to get out of their situation. Yes, of course it will take longer to get out of the habit than say, for someone who has only been overweight or smoking for 6 months... but it is still absolutely, 100% achievable. Think about it; it has to be! It's not as if there's some magical line that you can reach after which point you will never be thin again, will never quit smoking, will never not feel anxious. That simply makes no sense! The fact that so many people can and do get out of anxiety/dp every single day means that anyone can get out of anxiety/dp. Of course, it may take longer for others and it may take more intensive effort on a day-to-day basis, but the more effort that one puts into getting out of these thought-habits, the faster they will see results.


Sleeping Patterns

It has been shown again and again that anxiety disorders seem to inhibit sleep patterns just as they do thought patterns. So, just as you must train yourself back to a healthy thought pattern, you must do the same for sleep. This will have the effect of calming anxiety/dp, and thereby helping you to eventually get rid of it altogether. So, here are some general tips to get you back to a good, regular sleeping pattern: Get up earlier than usual. Get up 20 30 minutes earlier than you normally do. This will help you to shift your sleep cycle, moving the bedtime state to a little earlier.

Only go to bed when you are sleepy! If you are not actually feeling tired, then dont tell yourself that you should be in bed. Stay up, relax and read for a while, watch some boring night-time tv. Eventually youll feel tired and sleepy -


then go to bed. This will help to develop your brains association between your bed and actual sleep.

Dont do anything except sleep and have sex in bed. No reading or watching tv!

Dont lie awake at night. If you cant sleep, get up and do something boring for a while until you feel sleepy.

Dont take little naps during the day (at least for the time being), because this will disrupt your natural sleep cycles!

Dont worry about anxiety/dp when you go to bed. This is your time to relax, and you can look forward to tomorrow being another day of practicing your positive thought-habits.

Dont keep the room too warm or too cold (though having the room a little bit cold seems to be better for sleeping).


Make sure the room is dark enough, that you have a decent set of curtains. You dont always want sunlight flooding the room at 6 in the morning!

Ive said it already, but Ill say it again: Stay away, as much as you can, from coffee, tea or alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can have the effect of disrupting sleep patterns.

If you are hungry before bed, only eat something small, like a sandwich or a yoghurt. Avoid meals before bed your bodys digestion of a lot of food can keep you awake.

Take a dose of valerian an hour before you go to bed.

Take a shower or a bath before you go to bed.

These tips will help you to get a better nights sleep!


Can Anxiety / DP Return? This is one of the most common questions for anyone recovering from the condition. People often worry that, since it seems that theres so many things that can cause anxiety conditions, its probably very easy to just slip back into the state again. So, you might think, Well, when I recover, wont I be likely to just go back into anxiety/dp if I have another traumatic experience or stressful period? Well, if you recover properly, the simple answer to this question is: No. Why? Because, like Ive said many time over, anxiety/dp is nothing more than a habit of thought. What you are doing now is ending that habit with the only way to truly end a bad habit: replacing it completely with healthy habits. Lets take, for example, the following situation: Lets say you were a smoker for ten years. And then one day, you fully realised that it was bad for you, the damage it was doing to your body etc. So you quit. You didnt quit cold turkey (which is rarely effective), but you phased it out over a couple of months. It was difficult at first, but eventually, you completely stopped associating cigarettes with your coffee break at work, with your glass of wine in the evening. You learned to stop wanting a cigarette every time you saw someone else smoke one on the street. It took


time and effort, but you replaced the smoking habit of thought with a non-smoking habit of thought. And now, for arguments sake, lets just say that if, a full ten years after that, that youre at a party, youve had a few drinks, and an old friend offers you a cigarette. You think, why not? and you smoke it. Now - does that mean that youre back to square one, hooked all over again? Does it mean that youre going to wake up the following morning, craving another cigarette? Are you going to race down to the store to buy a pack? Of course not. The positive habits youve built up in the meantime are what count. Even if you do happen you get a cigarette craving the next day, thats perfectly ok because you know how to deal with it. You have the experience to know how to deal with it. You have dealt with it long enough to know that you can get past it. And its the exact same with anxiety/dp. After you get through it, you will have completely trained yourself back into a positive habit of thought. And if if something especially stressful happens to you in the future, and if if! - you do happen to experience the transitory anxiety/dp that almost everyone does in such situations, you will recognise it, you will know why you are feeling it, and you will be able to let it go.


Just like the cigarette craving! Its just a habit of thought trying to get back into your mind. But your experience has taught you how to deal with it. You know whats happening, you are fully aware that its a totally natural reaction for your body to have and it will dissipate, just as it should. Also, dont ever forget that during the recovery process, even minor episodes of anxiety/dp will invariably seem worse than they are, only because of the good times that have preceded it. You could have months of peace and then one day (or even a few days) of mild anxiety/dp - and that can seem particularly tough. Just remember, it is not the start of a slide back into the condition; it is nothing more than the remains of a thought habit that is diminishing over time, and I will explain this further in a later section.


The Paradox of Anxiety / DP I have discussed this theme at various points in the book, but I think its worth reiterating: If you consciously fight against anxiety/dp, it will invariably get worse. Its like trying to swim against a very strong current it is futile, and will only weaken you, and make things worse. It may seem like a silly thing to do at first, but you must remember to simply go with the flow. Dont fight it. Make adjustments over time, and eventually youll find that you are starting to recover. And thats the paradox of any anxietyspectrum disorder. It is a defence mechanism, like a scab. And just like scab, if you keep picking at it, the wound will not heal. But if you simply forget about it, it will fall away over time. In the same way, your brain will realise that the mental trauma or stress has been dealt with, there is nothing to be scared of, and the anxiety (and therefore dp) will dissipate. Thats why immersing yourself in entertaining narratives is so helpful; it helps you to forget about the anxiety/dp, and therefore stops it. You can stop comparing the anxiety/dp state to how you were before you had it and just be! And in doing so, you have brought yourself back to a state of normal, calm thought. The cycle of self-observation is stopped, and you can just enjoy what is happening around you. When that train of thought becomes a habit, then the anxiety/dp stops!


Letting Go Of The Past, Living For Now One of the most important lessons that anyone can learn in life is the ability to let go of the past. And I think thats the fundamental lesson that anxiety/dp teaches. Even if you have had the condition for a long, long time, dont worry about it. If it was a drug experience that brought on the condition, dont worry about it. If it was a car crash that brought it on, dont worry about it. And dont feel guilty about it either. What has happened is not your fault it is nobodys fault and you could not have foreseen it. So let it go. You are living for now, with a great future of recovery and strength to look forward to!

Talking to Others About Anxiety / DP Heres another golden rule for you: Stop discussing the condition with other people!

I know that this might seem like a particularly strange rule to have, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.


Why? Because any anxiety-based disorder requires the person who has it to be thinking about it on a regular basis. If that was to stop, at any time, then the condition would stop altogether. And whats one of the most effective ways of perpetuating a thought? Thats right Talking about it. Not only that, but telling people that you have an anxiety disorder not only confirms that statement to them, but reaffirms it to you also. The very act of saying those words lends those temporary feelings of anxiety with a credence that they absolutely should not have. It also means that the next time you meet that person, they will probably ask you, Hows the anxiety? Again, another reminder that you are supposed to be sick and that you need to talk about it. Can you see how all of this turns into a constant loop of anxious feelings? How talking about it all the time, having people ask you about it all the time, logging into anxiety/dp websites every day etc, only ever makes things worse? Of course, people can do this without even realising it. They think that they are doing the right thing by being candid with others, by coming right out there and saying, I have an anxiety disorder. But the fact is that saying and believing it are the only things that make it so.


So stop saying it, and stop believing it. If you are surrounded by concerned friends and family who are aware of the condition, ask them to lay off the concerned questions. If someone asks how you are doing, be honest with them, but do not start telling them in detail about any anxiety you may be feeling. Certainly, dont go around telling people that you have an anxiety disorder. Not only does that confirm to you both that you are somehow sick, but it also puts pressure on the other person to be somehow more careful with you; to not ask you to the cinema, to watch you for any panic attacks. Because when youre getting back to a regular, normal lifestyle, people treating you like a delicate flower is absolutely the last thing you need. All of that said, however, you should be as open as possible about anything that may have contributed to the stresses that caused the anxiety/dp in the first place. Whether you think it was a bad childhood memory, a drug experience, the death of a loved one, whatever it can be very beneficial, even catharctic, to speak to a professional or just an understanding friend about it. Even if your friends and loved ones do not completely understand what it is you went through, a problem shared is still very much a problem halved.


You Must Be Patient!

Also remember: The anxiety/dp won't stop overnight. There is no instant cure for the condition, just as there is none for any bad habit. Getting out of it is a progressive dehabitualisation, like learning to stop smoking, or learning to be more positive in general. You have to think of your recuperation in terms of weeks and months, rather than days. And even at that, the recovery can still be quite difficult at times. As with the removal of any habit, you will find that it may pop back into your mind, temporarily, at the most inopportune times. You see, recovery from anxiety/dp, like any anxiety-based disorder, is not a straight line from habit to non-habit. It is more like a jagged downhill mountain slope: at times, you will have to climb tough little peaks. At other times, you will find yourself trotting happily down an easy path. It varies from hour to hour, day to day. Just remember that no matter how tough those little peaks get, they are still part of a definite movement towards recovery.


You see, the thing about anxiety/dp is that because of its habitual nature, it can be very difficult to judge when you are getting better. For example, you might have two good days in a row. On the third day, for whatever reason, you feel anxiety/dp strongly. Now, if youd had that day in the middle of a week-long bout of anxiety/dp, it would just seem like another bad day. In fact, it mightnt even have felt that bad but just another day in which you have to cope with these negative thoughts and feelings. But when you are back in it after a few good days, or even weeks, it can seem much worse. Most of that is attributable not to the intensity of the anxiety/dp itself, but to the disappointment felt when you think that your escape route has been somehow closed off. Essentially, its the same principle as the famous bucket of water trick: Get three buckets. Fill one with hot water, one with cold water and one with lukewarm water. Place one hand into the cold and one into the hot. Let them sit for a minute. Now put both hands into the lukewarm water at the same time. The hand that was in the cold water will feel the lukewarm water as being hot, while the hand that was in the warm water will feel the lukewarm water as being cold two completely different interpretations of the same temperature. Why does this happen? Because your brain always compares the current experience to what has just preceded it.


The same goes for anxiety/dp (or any anxietyrelated disorder). Just as the hot water makes the lukewarm seem cold, good progress in your recovery will make any subsequent bad day seem worse. This happens over the long term; I can remember when I had been recovered from anxiety/dp for months, with no feelings of it whatsoever. Then, when I finished college, the temporary change of lifestyle was a shock for me; I no longer had something to concentrate on during the day and my routine was totally disrupted. Suddenly, I felt a little bit of anxiety coming on. Of course, I was horrified how could it be coming back after this long? But it wasnt coming back at all. What I was feeling was completely normal levels of anxiety, and a tiny trace memory of anxiety/dp that I had associated with stress like that for so long. At the time, it felt horrible but only because of the months of contentedness Id been having. On the other hand, if Id had a day that like during my weeks of constant anxiety/dp, I would felt fantastic! Training yourself to retaining proper perspective is one of the best assets you can have during your recovery from anxiety/dp. So when you have a bad day (and lets be honest about it, you will almost certainly have a few days that are quite difficult), try not to think, Oh no, Im back to square one! Just tell yourself: I am not back to square one. This anxiety/dp only seems worse because I am getting better in general. I have been making improvements


and that simple little fact tells me that one day soon I can completely recover from this condition. If I feel bad in the meantime, I am happy to simply wait until I feel better!

After Anxiety / DP It seems that most people, when they get out of anxiety/dp, tend to want to forget about it as much as possible. They stop looking at the websites, books, forums etc. This is basically because they have become aware of the negative effect that looking at a lot of this stuff has had on them while they had the condition. They know that all that research with it good intentions, did nothing but prolong the condition. The condition got worse when they thought about it so once they got out of it, why would they ever want to think about it again? And thats a good thing; it means that that person has figured out the way to get better, and has no intention of going back. However, it also means that anxiety/dp is rarely spoken about by most people. And it means that when people do look up related forums on the Internet, that its populated almost entirely by sufferers rather than those who have recovered. But, after you recover, if you feel like it, you turn your experience into something fruitful. Look out for people who might have the


condition but not know what it is, and ask them what they are feeling. This simple action will help to reverse the tide of negativity that surrounds and perpetuates anxiety/dp.



In Conclusion So, thats about it. I hope that I have covered a lot of the issues, symptoms etc that are most relevant to this condition. Most importantly, I sincerely hope that I have conveyed the basic nature of anxiety/dp, and how it is nothing more than an habit of thought. This can be difficult to remember at times, but the fact remains that every last shred of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, tells us that anxiety/dp is just a habit and as such, it can be stopped. But the ONLY way to do that is to overwrite that habit with more positive habits. Remember that There is no way to think yourself out of anxiety. There is no rationalizing with it. The only way to get better is to steamroll it out of existence with other, more positive habits of thinking. And that means keeping yourself busy, 24/7. It means not sitting around, feeling sorry for yourself. It means keeping your mind focused on productive tasks, all the time. It means reading books / newspapers, learning instruments, playing games, writing emails, going to work, socialising, dating - you name it, if it keeps you focused on positive things, then its a good thing. And these are enjoyable activities anyway so get into them as much as you can! And do keep at it. Whatever happens, whatever setbacks you may encounter, just keep going. Remember that all those existential thoughts


of Am I really here? etc are a total waste of time, and should not be dignified with any contemplation. Those types of thoughts are simply nothing more than a symptom of anxiety. They are a symptom because invariably, everyone who develops this temporary condition has them. Is that a coincidence? Of course not. They are just symptoms, thats all, and as such, can be totally ignored. Dont let any temporary feelings of anxiety stop you from doing a single thing that you want to do. Because when you do these things, even if you do feel anxious at the time, you are teaching your brain that there is nothing to be afraid of. You are telling your mind that the anxiety (and therefore, dp) is essentially pointless. When your brain grasps that it doesnt need to be in a defensive mode all the time, it will stop using its defenses; i.e., anxiety. It is your resilience and dedication that will get you to recovery. Stay positive, stick to the rules Ive given you, keep your mind occupied every waking minute, and you will begin to see results very quickly.

Enjoy your recovery! Shaun O Connor Cork City, Ireland, March 2009


Recommended Further Reading: There is no further reading to do! Make this the very last thing you ever read on the subject. Finish this, get out there and start practicing those positive habits, and living your life!