Agoraphobia is a general anxiety disorder normally associated with a fear of open spaces, and being away from a place you feel safe (in most cases home). Agoraphobia causes extreme anxiety and panic attacks when you’re put in situations where you feel trapped and unable to escape, creating a desperate feeling and need to escape back to your place of safety.
Agoraphobia symptoms can be caused by something as small as missing your family when you’re away from home (being home sick), but in more extreme circumstances it is incredibly debilitating. Agoraphobia tends to get worse given time, and if symptoms are allowed to progress it can leave you completely housebound and unable to perform normal everyday tasks such as going out to the shop and seeing friends.
What causes Agoraphobia?Agoraphobia has lots of triggers - the most common is the fear of being trapped with nobody to help. Ultimately, Agoraphobia is caused by the fear of having a panic attack, and it’s this fear that creates the need to stay in your ‘safe place’.
My experience with AgoraphobiaAs my anxiety symptoms grew worse over the years, Agoraphobia eventually took over my life until I was completely housebound.
Everyday normal activities such as going to the supermarket became an impossible and dreaded task. Work was unbearable, and socialising was non-existent - an invitation would swiftly be declined with thanks but no thanks.
It all started with the ‘what if’ thoughts...
What if my legs feel shaky when I walk into a shop and I pass out?
I know I have to drive to that meeting, but what if something happens?
I want to go to the gym but what if my heart starts to pound?
What if this drink has too much sugar in it - how is that going to make me feel?
If I turn down another invitation from a friend they’ll think I’m not interested - what if I have nobody left in my life?
I thought I could control my thoughts, but feeling like I was about to pass out every time I was in a shop (particularly supermarkets) and feeling sick every time I left the house was disturbing. The world became a very scary place and I didn’t want to face it. Home was my ‘safe place’, and the only sanctuary to the endless anxiety symptoms I experienced.
“I’ll just ride this out at home, at least if I do have a panic attack or a funny turn I can cope with it rather than being stuck in a place I don’t want to be, around other people.”
Staying at home rather than dealing with the ‘what if’ scenarios was always the easy option in settling the crippling feeling I had in my gut, but this was of course a very short-sighted way of dealing with the real underlying problem.
Being a prisoner in my own home (and mind) was one of the most debilitating long-term effects of Agoraphobia. Life became depressive, very quickly - seeing the same four walls every day with little to no human contact was tough.
Nobody deserves to live in fear, unable to explore and experience life in freedom. If you’re suffering with Agoraphobia you can do something about it. Don’t allow it to take hold – you can overcome it as quickly as it developed.
Agoraphobia symptoms to look out for:
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