Agoraphobia is often connected to people who dislike leaving their homes. Yet, this really doesn’t completely explain agoraphobia and its symptoms. It is a condition that is fed by a person’s fears, and can have a significant impact on the quality of life. However, agoraphobia is treatable, and it is possible for those who suffer from the condition to find help.
What is Agoraphobia?
The Mayo Clinic defines agoraphobia as:
“a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.”
Often, someone who has agoraphobia may have had a panic attack previously in a public space. They may be afraid that they will have another one in a similar situation. The initial panic attack may not even be directly caused from being in public. Yet, because it did happen in public, a connection develops which can trigger future panic attacks.
The Agoraphobia Symptom of Avoidance
If someone struggles with agoraphobia, they will want to avoid any situations where they might experience anxiety, and potentially have a panic attack. They might do the following:
- Avoid situations that involve crowds of people like concerts or sporting events.
- Not use public transportation, such as trains or airplanes.
- Avoid being in a situation where there is no way to escape.
Note that these scenarios can include either being in an open space or enclosed places.
Physical Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Besides avoidance, a person who has agoraphobia may also struggle with physical symptoms. These can include:
- Pain, tightness, or pressure in the chest
- Feeling lightheaded
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate.
- Upset stomach
- Feeling numbness or tingling sensations.
- Flushed skin.
Impact of Agoraphobia
Imagine being too afraid to leave your home because you fear what might happen to you. You may feel safe in your home, but your fear makes it difficult or impossible to:
- Keep or maintain a job.
- Visit with family or friends.
- Enjoy recreational sports or activities.
- Eat out at a restaurant.
- Go shopping.
- Visit museums, go to the theater, or see a movie.
- Participate in civic discourse such as community meetings or voting.
Although we have developed many technologies that allow us to telecommute for work or even get our groceries online, so much of our lives exist outside of our homes. Humans are wired to be social creatures. We need the interactions with other people to maintain our own individual well-being.
How to Treat Agoraphobia
Despite the challenges, agoraphobia is a treatable condition. Available options include:
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: working with a therapist to assess behavior and find solutions.
- Hypnotherapy: a process where you can become more open to suggestions.
- Exposure Therapy: where you and a therapist collaborate to gradually expose you to triggers and to process the results.
It is important to develop a relationship with a therapist with whom you trust and canhelp guide you in your healing process.
Life Solutions to Agoraphobia
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has tips for people who have anxiety disorders like agoraphobia. These include ideas for diet, exercise, and what to do if you feel like a panic attack is about to happen. The organization also has links to support groups throughout the United States and online. These are groups where you can find others who have anxiety and can find strength in their encouragement.
Just because you have agoraphobia doesn’t mean that you must live the rest of your life in fear, confined to your home or apartment. There is a wider world out there to explore and enjoy, as well as people who are willing to help if you let them. Be willing to take the first step to finding peace of mind.
Questions, Concerns, Thoughts?
I invite you to call me for a free 15 – minute phone consultation to discuss your specific needs and to answer any questions you have about anxiety, treatment and my practice. Please visit my website @ www.theanxietydocseattle.com or call me directly @ (206) 745-4933.