Before actually getting a diagnosis, I wasn’t really aware of what agoraphobia meant. It seemed like people who avoided leaving the house were like the brother in The Benchwarmers – not people like me. It was even harder to verbalize the panic that I felt outside the comfortability of my bedroom. I was diagnosed with agoraphobia at 19. This is the face of agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is characterized as an anxiety disorder in which one fears locations or places that might induce panic or anxiety. For those with social anxiety, this is A LOT of places and can quickly spiral into something that’s difficult to cope with. Rather than feeling the stress when you’ve entered the place, you actually begin to get anxiety anticipating the location.
Usually, you feel this anxiety because you’re aware that there’s no “out”. For example, people might feel symptoms of agoraphobia before going on a bus, train, or subway. There’s no easy way to get off and out of those situations.
Agoraphobia in My Life
I started to notice the symptoms of agoraphobia as a college student. I was walking into these huge lectures and being overwhelmed instantly. Worry about a power lecture would start the night before, rather than when I was planted in the seat. That’s a LOT of worrying about one 75 minute class. What if I had a panic attack in the middle of a row of lecture chairs? What if I missed something that was on the exam because I was trying to breathe in the bathroom?
To me, leaving the house was just a chore that I didn’t want to have to deal with. I’ve always been a homebody – but this was on a next level. At 19, the diagnosis of agoraphobia was officially added to my chart. It made sense; a lot of sense.
Treatment of Agoraphobia
Treating agoraphobia is similar to the treatment that one goes through for anxiety. You can be prescribed medication, like I was, that takes some of the edge off of entering those anxiety-inducing locations. You can go through therapy, also like me, to try and restructure your thought process surrounding these stressful moments.
In my life, treatment of my agoraphobia went hand and hand with that of my anxiety. It’s fairly common for those with panic disorder to suffer from symptoms of agoraphobia. Truthfully, I feared attending class, going out, and just leaving the house in general. I guess I really just feared having a panic attack in public.
My Life Today
As I’m writing this, I no longer have agoraphobia on my medical chart. It was absolutely not something I just woke up without. There were a lot of therapy appointments, uncomfortable desensitization, and I still have moments where I experience a lot of anxiety prior to certain events. There are other locations that trigger anxiety within me. It’s been really important to learn coping mechanisms and self-imposed boundaries for the most comfortable living.
For the most part, though, I don’t worry about working a shift before I have to go work it. Like everyone else, I dread going to the grocery store because it’s lame; not because I’m scared of not having an out. Since most of my panic has subsided, I’ve seen a huge decrease in my agoraphobia symptoms as well.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by places outside of your room, home, or comfort spot, PLEASE reach out to a professional. There are so many options and treatments that can be used to combat those feelings. You should never feel like the world is smaller for you because of your mental illness, but if you do right now, you’re absolutely not alone. My name is Emily and I was diagnosed with agoraphobia. This is the face of agoraphobia.
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