Agoraphobia can be devilitating but there are many treatments available!
We define agoraphobia as a form ofAnxiety disorder. There is some controversy regarding the word “Agoraphobia”. In the literal sense of the word, agoraphobia means a fear of “open spaces” This does not provide a complete and appropriate understanding of the term. Agoraphobia refers to a relentless anxiety condition arising out of illogical and disabling fears. Open spaces don’t necessarily cause fear in people affected with agoraphobia. But such people are somewhat haunted by fear getting panic attacks and the affected persons may suffer panic attacks either in public places like temples, crowded market areas or at home. So to be more precise, Agoraphobia is marked by extreme fear arising out of circumstances wherein an escape seems impossible or where there is no availability of any help in case of a panic attack.
A group of certain feared activities may result in Agoraphobia. An individual affected with agoraphobia may find it extremely difficult to drive a vehicle, or to travel in a vehicle; to stand on a bridge, in a queue, in a crowd and to be away from home. These persons are always troubled by an unknown fear of an impending danger and often get panic attacks.
Causes of agoraphobia
Medical professionals ascribe many factors that cause agoraphobia. If a people are exposed to anxiety aggravating events that recur again, they may develop agoraphobia. Such events cause an intense fear often leaving an indelible impression on that individual’s mind. The main cause of agoraphobia is the fear of having panic attacks. These panic attacks make the affected individual to live in the constant fear of having another attack. The sufferers feel unnerved by the fear of what may happen to them if they get a panic attack in such public places like markets, hotels, temples or while traveling in a car, bus or any other vehicle.
Another important cause of agoraphobia is the obsessed memory of the situation and experience of the once suffered panic attack. Again this causes fear and anxiety finally leading to another attack. Naturally such persons confine themselves to home and avoid visiting public places.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Medical practitioners classify the symptoms of agoraphobia into three categories and they are; Physical, Psychological and behavioral symptoms.
Physical symptoms of agoraphobia are very rare because the affected people avoid situations that make them intensely anxious. However the agoraphobics may experience certain physical disorders. Such people often feel hot and sweaty followed by irregular heartbeats. Giddiness, shivering, diarrhea, nausea and chest pain are the common symptoms.
Psychological symptoms of agoraphobia are expressive of the patient’s fears. The affected people are in constant fear being put in an embarrassing condition. The terrifying panic attack may cause breathlessness. These people find themselves in situations from which there is no way out. Such people may lose their mental balance. They shiver and blush in front of people.
The people affected with agoraphobia exhibit symptoms related to behavior. They try to be in their comfort zone, confining themselves to home for long periods. They keep themselves away from doing any physical activity as they are afraid of any possible panic attack. Such persons withstand a situation only with great fear and anxiety. They also avoid driving vehicles.
Agoraphobia can be treated effectively with trusted medications and with definite kinds of psychotherapy
As I watch students pass by our busy street, I was curious of what do they have in mind that they can go wherever they want effortlessly? It is peace of mind. As they walk, they are not troubled by any danger/social/ anxiety/panic problems in specific along their way. They are not worrying a thing. So what’s causing me to worry when I go out? It’s because of the trauma, bad experiences that we encountered. We are sadden, ashamed, disappointed of how we reacted or felt in the past. Worrying about the past only makes you preoccupied about it in this present moment and keeps you from moving on.
It’s time to move on. It’s time to change. We deserve to smile and be happy. There is this fact that those stars at night the one star we are looking now actually don’t exist anymore. It has already exploded or collapsed only that its light has taken so long to get to us. It’s like our past experiences. We are worrying and watchful about it. We might not know but it may be already gone.
Go out and find out if it’s gone. Deciding to go is important. You can feel this inner will, self confidence, self esteem and strength shining through you if you have already decided. You know you can do this. I know it’s hard at first and those times you have panicked again. Difficult doesn't mean impossible. It simply means that you have to work hard. You might not or might get anxious and cold sweaty hands but it doesn’t mean that you’ll give up that easily. You know you can do this. We have to dedicate ourselves to go out at least everyday. And, sometimes we have to kick our butts out due to laziness or boredom.
Sometimes, we feel out of energy, not excited, unenthusiastic, bored, ain’t looking forward about going out due to stress, trauma, burnout or we simply don’t want to go. We have to have this extra effort to get us going. We have to motivate ourselves. One way of encouragement is immersing myself outside my house like moving the chair almost outside the doorway when watching tv, spending time to your garden or balcony for a break, etc. Anything under the sun will do. This will make you feel good and connected of the outside. It feels like going out is okey instead of feeling down for the rest of the day.
Every time we decide to go out and even at least try, I would be very proud of myself and you. Before going out, we have to put our mind in peace which means we have to settle it down. First, we have to acknowledge the way we feel about going especially negative feelings. In these negative feelings, there is a thought behind it. We have to stop and think why am I feeling this way. For example, I feel anxious and afraid because I think going out is scary, I will get dizzy, I will faint, I will not be able to breathe there. We are catastrophising things. These are unhealthy thoughts and bad habits. Next, change this negative thought to a positive thought and add up your supporting statements like “this is the day, I can do this, I did it there and I can do it here, etc”so that as a result you’ll be in a good mood or happy feelings. For example, going out is fine for me, I will not get dizzy +, I will not faint +, I can breathe + and then smile to the world it’s a beautiful day. Notice that if we keep thinking negative we are feeling bad. The way we think affects the way we feel. Think positive cause we deserve to be happy. Do this everytime you feel bad and you’ll see a difference. You’ll find yourself smiling pleasantly.http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/docs/Panic-03_Thinking-Feeling%20Connection.pdf Here is a site where you can practice more about thinking-feeling connection.
Be when you’re outside be happy. Don’t delay this gratification every step of the way. Set this mood in you. Whenever you feel anxious, immediately change that negative thought and be happy again. Say to yourself its feels great to be here. Give thanks for every opportunity that is given to you to cope.
Quantity and variety of exposure are also important. Quantity of exposure will give you your foundation. Everytime we succeed or achieved regardless with symptoms or not, this increases your strength, confidence and self esteem. You have now faith in yourself that you are capable of visiting those places. We might be scared in going there again but there’s this calmness in our hearts that we know we can do it again. Variety of exposures will give you answers to your doubts about the places you avoid. After I established my foundation and confident of what can I do, I came to a point that I pushed myself further more. I have not walked meters long at the specific street because I know in my last memory I got dizzy. I told myself I can do it. Holding my faith with me and my strong foundation I went through it. Whenever I get dizzy I stop for a while and continued to move. I told myself if I reach that lamp post I can go home but this faith keeps me to push through. Post by post I passed. I doubted myself but my mind is telling me that I know I can do this. I was really determined to do it. Then, I can’t believe that I made it. It’s like a dream came true and its very real. It’s like I indeed chose the correct answer and achieving that big red check mark.
I have read some success stories and some suggestions. One is meeting all of your friends in facebook one by one at a time. I saw her video and she was really happy being outside, meeting her friends and gaining new interesting experiences to them. Second is talking to a friend on phone that is doing an exposure also. Third, tell yourself that you can do this that it will be done very soon. There are many other conventional techniques, stories and suggestions out there.
Other things that I am trying to do, one is while strolling appreciates the surroundings. Use your five senses like how beautiful are the surroundings, the delightful smell of freshly bake bread, how sour the candy is, how rough is the cement, or the sound of people talking. Seek for these new experiences. Another is remembering today. We tend to react according to our past in situations instead of accepting it as a new memory, a new journey, or a new day. Try to remember today than to remember the past. I always appreciate the every new day.
After my exposures, I tend to de-stress myself. I think its important so that I can loosen all that tensed and stressed body. I listen to music. I sing. I play games. I buy my victory food. I can enjoy more and cherish my achievement in a relaxed body.
These are the things I want to share to you. I hope it will help you in one way or another or support you. Feel free to comment and also give me more suggestions like how to motivate me to go out everyday, etc. I know I got more to pass through. More power to all. Think positive. Be happy. God bless us all.
I don't have an actual diagnosis of agoraphobia. I am diagnosed with severe clinical depression and anxiety including OCD. I do have severe issues with getting out of my home. I am not really afraid of leaving really. I am not afraid of people seeing me or anything that some people I know are agoraphobic are. As far as I figure, my problems are more with the preparation to go and fears that I might forget something before leaving or coming home. I also become overwhelmed if planning to get some place gets complicated. I still love to get out! I love being at Mom's. I love to be at a restaurant for a meal. I even love to be at a store shopping! I don't mind so much going by bus... but I dread coming home by bus. I also dread arranging to get a ride home.
It isn't that I don't like being home either. I am quite comfortable here even though I have a clutter issue. It is "home" to me. It is the organizing to go that is the problem. It wasn't nearly so much an issue when I still had a car to drive places. My car was in my comfort zone. I could always get in my car and go home whenever I wanted and get something. I could always have a sports bag with me that had all I might want or need... but travelling by bus... or with a ride from someone else... it is not as easy.
Decades ago, a psychiatrist told me that a part of some of my panic with travelling somewhere had to do with my obsessing on the details of the route and on the perfect route. So I wonder if it is that same OCD issue. That I obsess on perfection or something similar, that I obsess on what might go wrong if I forget something when I go out.
Of course when it comes to going out, I have some health issues that come to to play. When I go out shopping, I likely will pay for it with a few days exhaustion. Health issues reduced my stamina which reduced what I could do. (I didn't reduce what I was doing which reduced my stamina... so many assume that. I went down fighting. I still fight it.) A person sometimes hesitates to do things that cause pain. I mostly hide, even from myself now, when I have panic/anxiety attacks. They do help exhaust a person though.
I take the bus to my Mom's for family occasions even though I could get rides there, but I do gratefully accept a ride home. I still don't know why even the thought of catching a bus home panics me? It always has since childhood. I can do it, but... when I was taking Zoloft years ago that tamed it a bit. And taking trazidone helps me not to be panicking as I think about it now. (Basically I don't get a flashback now.)
However I write too much... I still don't think I have traditional Agoraphobia. I am not afraid of being away from home. I am not afraid of being around others — though I do have problems panicking a bit in crowds when things get too tight. (Think standing room only on a bus.) I feel too many "stories" amongst all those around me. ...and I am still writing too much...
I guess it doesn't matter what it is called really. It keeps me from visiting friends. It keeps me from seeing my Mom. Worse it keeps me from getting groceries or seeing the Doctor. So even if it isn't agoraphobia, it is one thing, it is a Problem.