What to Do When You Want to Disappear

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Sometimes when life gets hard, you might think, I want to disappear. Maybe your life feels too heavy with the injustices in the world, maybe you are overwhelmed with everything you need to do, or maybe you wish a relationship you were in looked different. If you’re feeling depressed and in a downward cycle of rumination, you may be feeling like you can’t do anything right and wish you could only disappear before you mess even more up.

Disappearing can feel tempting because it may feel like a potential opportunity to hit pause in your life. You wouldn’t have to tell anyone what was wrong, you wouldn’t have to deal with your jerk of a boss, and the dishes in the sink would no longer be taunting you.

Shame involves an uncomfortable sense of exposure that naturally leads to wanting to disappear. It is also accompanied by a physiological response that contributes to behavioral disengagement and withdrawal.

But while there’s nothing wrong with having this feeling—plenty of people do, especially when they are going through hard times—it is a sign that something isn’t working, says Rachel Gersten, licensed mental health counselor.

“And that something that isn’t working can either be a small something or a much bigger something,” she says. 

Here are some tips for navigating this feeling.

Take Stock

Gersten recommends noting the next time you find yourself thinking I want to disappear. What are you doing? Who are you with? How are you feeling? Where are you? These are all cues to pay attention to, no matter how big or small they seem.

Maybe you want to disappear every time you’re standing in line at the grocery store after a long day at work. OK, sure, grocery shopping can be tedious, but if you take a step back, you know it’s not worth disappearing over. Because it’s not really about the shopping.

Wanting to disappear is a defense mechanism shielding you from feelings you might be trying to ignore. 

Do you feel social anxiety at a crowded grocery store? Do you resent that your partner expects you to do the grocery shopping? Maybe you sat in a ton of traffic to get there, or that particular grocery store reminds you of a breakup, and you’re afraid of running into that ex. Or maybe you feel that there’s no room for fun in your life between the monotony of work and chores.

In this example, just noting that you are feeling this way in a particular place at a specific time can bring up any number of feelings that could point to something small to change. This could mean ordering groceries instead of standing in line after a long day of work or having a bigger conversation, such as division of labor in your relationship.

Reach Out

If you are feeling like you want to disappear, feelings of shame may be leading to your desire to isolate. However, the health consequences of isolation, including depression, can be serious. But a dialectical behavioral therapy principle, opposite action can be helpful here.

The idea behind opposite action is that, often, when we are feeling a form of emotional distress, our go-to is to believe what our emotion is trying to tell us. If you're feeling shame, this means your emotions may be telling you to isolate yourself. Acting opposite—in this case, reaching out, rather than pulling back—can decrease these feelings of shame.

Tell Yourself a Different Story

If you find yourself thinking, "I want to disappear," it can feel overwhelming and only intensify those feelings of shame or self-loathing as your brain attacks itself. Instead, a concept from narrative therapy called externalization can help you change the story you're telling yourself.

Rather than thinking, "I want to disappear," try to name what wants you to disappear. Is it shame? Fear of embarrassment? Telling yourself, "shame wants me to disappear," can put some distance between you and these thoughts. This may help you take a step back and realize that it is these unhelpful thoughts that want you to disappear.

Take a Break

Gersten suggests taking a break from the thing that makes you want to disappear for as long as you can help. If it's work that's making you think of disappearing, maybe a long vacation isn't feasible right now, but taking a day off or an actual break time are smaller ways that you can remove yourself from the cause. 

Rachel Gersten, licensed mental health counselor

Vanishing into thin air often isn’t what would really help in the long term (as tempting as it feels!), and we usually think a lot clearer after a break.

— Rachel Gersten, licensed mental health counselor

Research shows that even microbreaks are helpful at work. Sometimes, wanting to disappear could mean getting off the grid, disconnecting for a day or an afternoon, and spending time in nature. 

Once you have removed yourself from whatever that's making you want to disappear, "check in with yourself to get to the root of what's going on to cause the feeling," says Gersten. If this is at work, it could be that you feel that you are not being respected, that you have more work than is manageable—or maybe you hate your boss.

From there, take a look at what you can change. If you're feeling like you're not being respected or have more work on your plate than you can handle, there may be conversations you can have with coworkers on these points. If not, you can decide to change how you deal with the situation or leave the job—not disappear—altogether. 

If I Want to Disappear, Am I Depressed or Suicidal?

You might be worried that wanting to disappear means that you are depressed or suicidal. Gersten says that wanting to disappear doesn’t necessarily equate to a diagnosis of depression or feelings of suicide. Sometimes it may just be as simple as you don’t want to deal with whatever’s going on that day, and checking out sounds like a better option.

But it also can be a warning sign that there’s more going on with your mental health than you realize, especially depending on how often you’re thinking this way. If you think I want to disappear multiple times during the day or most days, you might want to find a therapist.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

They can help you untangle what the feelings of fantasizing about disappearing are covering up. They can also help you think through which problems you think disappearing might solve and what that would look like. A therapist may finally help you find tools to deal with these feelings or guide you to discover changes you want or need to make in your life. 

A therapist may ask you if you feel other things that might point to depression, such as changes in eating patterns, sleeping patterns, or energy levels. An appointment might include a suicide risk assessment to determine what wanting to disappear means to you. Does it mean you want to kill yourself or that you simply want to get away? 

Even if you tell a therapist that you have had thoughts of suicide, this does not automatically mean that you will be hospitalized. Sharing these thoughts with your therapist can help them develop proper treatment and minimize risk by creating a safety plan with you if they believe you may be a danger to yourself.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer using her experiences to help others. She holds a master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University and is a board member of Still I Run, a non-profit for runners raising mental health awareness. Theodora has been published on sites including Women's Health, Bustle, Healthline, and more and quoted in sites including the New York Times, Shape, and Marie Claire.