Agoraphobia: The Anxiety No One Talks About
Fear is a strong emotion. The push and pull of the emotion can sometimes become larger than ourselves. Some situations can make us feel vulnerable and powerless against our phobias which in turn can make our already anxious minds restless.
If you feel anxious about situations and places where you see no escape route or if you fear crowded and public spaces, you may be familiar with the term of phobia or disorder – Agoraphobia. The fear that many feels is often accompanied by panic attacks. Agoraphobia in a person can grow gradually starting with mild anxiety attacks about a particular circumstance or situation and can eventually develop into a fear where the affected person is afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone.
Agoraphobia generally develops by the age of 35. It can greatly affect a person’s personal and professional life. It is rather difficult to diagnose a person with agoraphobia. The symptoms can vary from mild dizziness to a full-blown panic attack.
Symptoms Of Agoraphobia
Typical agoraphobia symptoms include fear of:
- Leaving home alone
- Being out in public spaces and transportation, such as malls and buses
- Being in a close environment, such as movie theatre and grocery store
- Anxiety or panic attacks including shortness of breath and dizziness
Situations and places with no way to leave can cause severe panic episodes and could dim the confidence of a person.
Agoraphobia And Anxiety
Agoraphobia is almost always accompanied by panic attacks or an anxiety attack. The sudden increase in heart rate, dizziness, and shaking are the most common symptoms of an anxiety attack. Treating the fear of crowded places and social situations can cause a person to lose their essence and confidence.
The anxiety of being in a situation where a panic attack can be misinterpreted or left untreated can cause a person to retreat in their protective shells. There are many ways where an anxiety attack can be treated for an agoraphobic person. The treatments can include:
Many people with mild symptoms of agoraphobia can be treated by using exposure therapy and CBT. This treatment method asks a person to get exposure to situations they fear with the help of
a companion or a therapist. Facing their fear with the help of a trusted friend or a family member can help an agoraphobic person feel better. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps a person gradually return to activities they previously feared.
- Relaxation practices
Learning to relax using meditation and yoga may help a person feel calm in fearful situations. The regular usage of muscle relaxation exercises can be helpful for an agoraphobic person. Relaxation depends on a person’s grasp of their fear and phobia. Changes in lifestyle and daily habits can also provide effective therapy to help a person with social anxiety.
- Support groups
Many people are unaware of agoraphobia and they often fail in providing effective support to a person with agoraphobia. People are often judged regarding their mental health and social anxiety. Support groups, online and offline, provide a safe and non-judgmental place for asking and providing the support required to cope with the fear. These platforms provide adequate resources to help with such situations.
- Medicinal treatments, such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills
Medication can also provide support and help to those who seek professional help for social and public anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs and Selective serotonin-norepinephrine inhibitors or SNRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Using medicinal help usually takes time to work and should only be taken under a physician’s discretion. Dietary changes or herbal supplements can also be used as a suitable alternative medication.
Living with a psychiatric disorder can be difficult. People with such disorders often hear the phrases; ‘it’s in your head’ and ‘that’s not a thing’. Hearing such words can diminish the light inside a person. Gaining knowledge and educating oneself about agoraphobia can go a long way in helping someone.
On a personal note, setbacks are common but don’t let them rule you. Living with constant anxiety is not easy and it can make the daily life of a person really difficult. There is no shame in asking for help if you are unable to control your anxiety. The most important step to overcome social anxiety and agoraphobia is to become self-aware. Write about your experiences in a journal and reflect on them after some time. I have felt this method quite effective.
Live freely and find happiness in the little things around you.
Love the life you live!
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