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Hi, all.

I've been around the forums quite a bit lately. I know I've talked about this a lot in some of my other posts, but I'll just repeat it for anyone who hasn't read my opinion. I personally feel DP/DR, at least for me, is a form of OCD. I have never been formally diagnosed with OCD, but from doing tons (and I mean tons) of research, I truly believe I have OCD. One thing I do when I'm feeling especially dereal and disconnected is to count out to four on my fingers. I guess it's a weird way of reminding myself that I am in control of this body...despite the fact that it doesn't feel like it.

Anywho, I've also been thinking that these existential thoughts we all seem to get are a form of intrusive thought in the anxiety/OCD community. Last year, my OCD revolved around violent intrusive thoughts, which is a form of OCD. I got better after taking a supplement specific to OCD (inositol) and after months of taking the supplement, my symptoms returned (possibly because I built up a tolerance)...this time, I'm more focused on these existential thoughts more so than the violent intrusive thoughts. Because of this, I've come to the conclusion that existential thoughts are a form of intrusive thought.

Intrusive thoughts are treated in the OCD world using CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. It's basically a therapy that teaches you a new way to behave and react to your thoughts.

I downloaded a book months ago on Amazon specific to intrusive thoughts using a CBT-based approach. I began reading the book and couldn't see myself in it anymore. It focused mostly on the violent thoughts rather than the existential ones. I stopped reading it. Last night, I picked the book back up and read where I had left off and realized that I might just be able to put the same theory into these weird existential thoughts.

So...existential thoughts could be about anything. My thoughts can range from one moment to being "how do we remember things? how does the brain work?" to "why am I a person, what is the point of being human?" to "how does time work, how can we live in the present when it's always a fleeting moment". It's gotten to the point where I'm afraid to remember things (reminds me of how weird memories are) or look at people (reminds me of how weird it is to be human) or look at books/pictures describing the human body or brain (because it reminds me of how weird it is for all of this to be what governs our realities). In fact, just writing about these things is making me feel super anxious. Sometimes just thinking about thoughts causes me to panic, as weird and crazy as that sounds.

In the book, it talks about an intrusive thought giving a "whoosh" anxiety effect. You have the thought and you get that whoosh of fear, anxiety and panic. For me, whenever I think of something like this...how weird it is for this or that to work or be the way it is, I get a sense of panic. Then, the more I panic over such a thought and how weird it is and "what if" and "why?", the fear continues until I feel it peak (this is the point I feel like I'm going to go nuts) and then it subsides. This is a classic anxiety-fueled intrusive thought, according to the book and other research I've done.

So....there are seven steps to implementing CBT to your intrusive thoughts:

1. Recognize and label the thought. Okay, so you get an existential thought that pops up. Your first step is to label the thought and recognize it for what it is: a junk thought. You can either tell yourself "this is just an intrusive thought" or "this is just a junk thought".

2. Remind yourself they're just thoughts. You are safe, you are only thinking too deeply. These existential thoughts are just thoughts. No need for you to do anything with them. Do not get involved with them. Remember: what you resist, persists. The more you struggle against such a stupid thing as "thoughts" the more they come back.

3. Accept and Allow the thoughts. Become a curious observer of your thoughts. Instead of attaching fear to the thoughts, just observe them and allow them to come. Don't resist them. I was using the mantra this morning as the book suggests, "I can sit with these thoughts all day. They don't bother me." Don't wish the thoughts to be gone or totally force yourself to think of something else. Yes, distraction is great, but it can't be done as a way to avoid intrusive thoughts; they'll just come back.

4. Don't engage the thoughts:
- do not engage them in any way.
- do not answer any questions the thought poses.
- do not push the thoughts out of your mind.
- do not go online looking for answers.
- do not figure out what the thoughts mean.
- do not try to determine if the thought is true or false.
- do not analyze why the thought is popping up.
- do not offer reassurance in one way or another.

5. Go with the flow. Simply go with the flow and allow your feelings and thoughts to be there. Move from that thinking to your current senses, such as what's in front of you, what's going on in front of you. Surrender the struggle and focus on what is as opposed to "what if" or "why".

6. Let time pass. I know for me, this always works. There are times my thoughts get the best of me and I spend a good half hour panicking over a thought "oh my gosh...how is my brain controlling my body...??? if I continue thinking this thought..I'm going to go nuts. I'm becoming hypersensitive over the functioning of my brain....how does this work...how does that work?". But when I let time pass, the thought goes away until another one pops up. This is when you use the mantra again: I could sit with these thoughts all day long. My discomfort has absolutely nothing to do with being in danger. These are just thoughts.

7. Continue what you're doing. Keep doing what you were and plan to do. These thoughts should not govern your life or prevent you from doing things. They're just intrusive thoughts. If you find yourself going back into the thoughts, gently redirect your attention. What that means is to stop being judgemental about yourself...don't sit there and be like "oh damn, I'm having those damned thoughts again! See? I need to stop thinking these thoughts!" it means more like "oh...yeah, what was I doing? Oh yeah, I want to play with my daughter and read some books with her."

The book also talks about exposure therapy for your intrusive thoughts: specifically making yourself think the thoughts to train your brain that you're willing to put up with discomfort and that you can bring the discomfort onto yourself deliberately. I haven't gotten to that part of the book yet, though. Haha.

The book also explains that you might want to mentally label the thoughts with an image, if that helps. You can picture these intrusive-existential thoughts as an annoying guy at the party. He's super annoying, he keeps ruining everyone's fun, but by confronting him or calling the cops on him, it's going to make matters worse. It's best to just sit on the sidelines, let him indulge in all the food and annoy the patrons before he decides the party is boring and leaves.

Obviously, I am still getting used to using this method. We have all ingrained ourselves so deeply in our existential thoughts that they feel very real and valid. For example, I've been talking a lot about thoughts this whole post and it's causing me to be anxious because one of my existential thoughts is "how do thoughts work? what governs our thoughts? we're all just walking brains on a weird human body." But these are just junk thoughts. They serve no purpose but to make me anxious.

I hope this helps you all and remember that it's not an overnight cure. This could take weeks/months to finally come to the point where the existential thoughts don't bother you one bit. I know for me, the existential thoughts often trigger my DP/DR or make it worse because of the anxiety I feel towards the thoughts.

I'm not entirely sure, but this method may also help DP/DR?

Basically for that, you would label the feeling "this is DP/DR".
Then you tell yourself it's just a feeling, a product of anxiety. A feeling is not fact.
Then you accept and allow the feeling. Leave the feeling alone, watch it as you would a curious observer.
Float above the experience: remove yourself from the turbulence and don't get entangled in the DP/DR. Stop fighting it, stop checking in.
Let time pass and use the mantra "I could sit here feeling derealized and depersonalized all day. It's just a feeling, sensation." DP/DR is uncomfortable, but you're safe.
And then proceed. Keep doing what you were or plan to do. It does not matter if the DP/DR comes back, you're going to get on with your routine and life.

I hope this has helped you guys :)
 
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