One of the weirdest, most unsettling feeling that can come along with anxiety and depression is dissociation. It can lead to even more anxiety, and feed panic. This can be an uncomfortable experience, especially since it often occurs alongside an already very uncomfortable panic attack.
What is dissociation? It’s this feeling of detachment that causes you to feel outside reality, or to feel that you’re just an observer in your own life. When you dissociate during a panic attack you’ll feel like you’re in a really bad dream. I don’t know if it’s the brain trying to cope with a traumatic experience-and yes panic attacks can indeed be traumatic experiences-or if the panic attack causes something in the brain to short-circuit. Whatever the case, the result is the same: you panic, you dissociate, and as a result you panic more. It’s a wonderful cycle!
This is something I struggle with a lot whenever I’m having a panic attack, or even if I’m having just a period of very high anxiety. What I’ve found helps is to try to physically ground myself by touching something solid, like a wall, a fence, or something else along those lines. Holding someone’s hand is also helpful, if that option is available. The physical sensation of touch helps to ground us back in reality.
The most important thing to remember is that, like anxiety and panic, dissociation can’t hurt you. It’s scary. It’s uncomfortable. But that’s all it is. Just stop, take deep breaths, ground yourself, and it will pass.