Living with Agoraphobia

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What is Agoraphobia?

            Someone who has agoraphobia fears open or crowded spaces because it makes them feel trapped, helpless, and unable to escape. Agoraphobia may cause a person to avoid many common, everyday situations in order to avoid the intense anxiety that comes with them. This phobia can significantly impact a person’s life because they often feel unable to go outside of their home. It can cause panic attacks, extreme fearfulness, social isolation, and even depression. Some individuals who are living with agoraphobia find it less stressful to go outside of their home with a trusted friend or family member. Although this helps some, they still often report feeling trapped and anxiousness surrounding how to escape the environment with another person with them.

Common Signs of Agoraphobia

  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of anxiety/dread when having to go out
  • Avoiding public or social situations
  • Being housebound
  • Feels unable to leave home for long
  • Will not go out alone

Common Places/Situations Avoided

  • Shopping
  • Travelling
  • Going to school/work
  • Attending family functions
  • Going out with friends
  • Keeping appointments (medical, dental, hairdressing, etc.)
  • Public transportation

Causes

            Agoraphobia can stem from a prior incident with either extreme anxiety or a panic attack occurred. For example, if a person had a panic attack on a bus or train, they may feel scared to put themselves in the same situation again in the future. As a result, they may just end up avoiding public transportation altogether. If they were to have to use public transportation, it would likely be overwhelming to them because they would constantly be thinking about their previous panic attack, causing them to feel the same way again.

           Agoraphobia also can be caused by traumatic events in a person’s life. Abuse, bereavement, divorce, and other mental illnesses can contribute to the development of agoraphobia. The phobia can also stem from other irrational fears. The fear of terrorists, violent crime, contracting illnesses, or embarrassment can all cause a person to become agoraphobic in order to avoid social or crowded situations.

How can Agoraphobia affect me as a carer?

            As a carer, agoraphobia can be especially difficult. Having to take care of your loved one and ensure they have everything they need on top of your fears can be very hard to do. If going outside of the home is not an option for you, you may not be able to effectively care for your loved one, get medications, go grocery shopping, or get them to their medical appointments. On the other hand of things, caring for someone who has agoraphobia can be equally difficult. If they are housebound, you may have to buy groceries, household items, clothes, and anything else they need. In addition to this, it may be challenging to understand their mindset.

Treatment

            Agoraphobia can be treated with the help of counselling and medication. At the same time, you can also try some things at home to ease your mind. Educating yourself on the phobia can help you to better understand the triggers, causes, and reasoning behind the irrational fears. Understanding why the phobia exists within yourself may allow you to challenge your fears and understand the irrationality behind them.

            Simple lifestyle changes can also help someone with agoraphobia have lessened symptoms. Simply eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help to get rid of nervous energy and stress. Avoiding caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and drugs is also important, as they can actually make the symptoms of agoraphobia worse! When you’re feeling anxious or afraid in situations that trigger your phobia, don’t fight the fears! Simply breathe slowly and deeply, think positive thoughts, and focus on non-threatening things.

Need more support?

             If you are a carer who is struggling with agoraphobia, Suffolk Carers Matter can help! Our team can help to provide you with advice and guidance, as well as refer you to our free counselling service if it is needed.

CALL us at 01284 333035 – open Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday-Sunday 10am-2pm.

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