Have you heard of anxiety and depersonalization? There is a way to use depersonalization to your advantage. In this article, we share how you can do so.

Some time ago, I discovered how to detach from a negative situation, and I was pleasantly surprised how absolutely freeing this could be. You may have heard the phrase “anxiety depersonalization”. Well depersonalization can be a way of using a negative tendency you may already possess as an anxiety sufferer. I will explain. First I need to define depersonalization.

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I found an article on the website of the Bio Behavioral Institute written by Dr. Katherine Donnelly. Dr. Donnelly explains depersonalization in the following way: subjective feelings of unreality, feeling detached from your mental or physical activities, feeling mentally “foggy,” experiencing “numb” feelings for people and subjects you previously had passion for, and being very distressed by these experiences

Naturally depersonalization has a negative connotation, but as I indicated, there is another interpretation which can be helpful to you.

Allow me to provide an analogy…

Imagine you are at a movie theatre and watching a really scary movie. You come to an extremely tense scene in the movie. Your heart is racing, your hands are sweating, and your anxiety levels are increasing. Suddenly… you have the realization that this is just a movie, and your anxiety level decreases. There’s a great way to explain this based on something discussed by Dr. Lloyd Richmond, Psychologist. He provides a wonderful example of a pilot in charge of flying an aircraft [called the pilot in command (PIC)].
All pilot training involves coping with equipment failures and other emergencies. Emergencies can happen no matter how well-prepared and competent the pilot may be.

When an emergency occurs, physiological changes resulting from the threat to life favour strong surges of energy in the large muscles, and they foster a narrow focus of attention on the “blood rage” necessary for survival.

In a crisis, however, a pilot needs precise hand and foot movements—not gross physical strength—and he or she needs clear thinking—not the tunnel vision of rage.

Consequently, the “natural” survival skills triggered by an emergency can actually contribute to a pilot losing control of the aircraft.

Therefore, in order to manage emotional arousal in an emergency, a pilot—or any person—needs a third option, a sort of “unnatural” option. Neither fleeing the problem, nor fighting it. This allows one to take command of it.

Like the pilot in an emergency, taking this third route can allow you to be a “pilot in command” of your emotions and physiology. Rather than getting stuck with events that cause anxiety, depersonalization can be a form of helpful detachment. Unfortunately, however, most of us do not utilize this tendency in our day-to-day lives when anxiety provoking situations arise. But we can. Everyday stressful situations, e.g., at work or in our personal lives, can compound on each other and increase our anxiety. But as you can see there is a way out.

I would encourage you to practice detaching in this fashion whenever you encounter a negative situation. Even if it’s just for a minute or two. You can experience immediate relief. To be clear, I am not talking about running away from a problem, but simply stepping back so that you are not trapped. Then you can be very effective in bringing about a solution.

You might be thinking that this process has nothing to do with anxiety and depersonalization. Well remember the definition of depersonalization includes detachment from one’s physical and mental activities. If you can remove yourself from these emotional situations, you can step outside of these stressors and your feelings – both physically and mentally.

Let’s take any circumstance in your life in which you want relief. You feel yourself getting worked up. Suddenly you are ready to respond with an emotional reaction. Instead, just stop doing what you are doing. Take a time-out. Sound simple? Well it is simple, but simple does not mean ineffective.

Once you practice this for a while you will learn that you can do this more and more in your life. It works across a variety of situations.

Start by just practicing this time-out suggestion for a minute or two and gradually increase the timeframe. Do this whenever something gets your goad. Or you feel something starting to raise your stress levels. Just setting the intention to do this can start the process. It will make you be aware when things raise your ire or stress levels. Like learning to ride a bike, the more you actually do it, the more you will get better and better. Just remember my analogy of the movie when you encounter a situation.

This is one more technique to add to your anxiety toolkit. For quick recall memorize it as the “anxiety detached” technique.

References (Anxiety Depersonalization)

Donnelly, K. (2010, July 28). What is Depersonalization? Bio Behavioral Institute. Retrieved from

Morrison, J. (2001) DSM-IV Made Easy. (pp. 252). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.