If someone had told me when I was twenty that they had agoraphobia, I would have been baffled. I’d just tell them to leave the house and then they’d be cured. If only it was that simple. Seventeen years later, I know far more about agoraphobia than I ever thought possible. I’ve written about my struggles on many occasions.
Fear Of The Outdoors?
The word “agoraphobia” is translated from Greek and means “fear of the marketplace”. Many people understand agoraphobia to be a fear of leaving the house or a fear of open spaces. Even many health professionals that I’ve encountered believe this to be the case. This absolutely isn’t the case. I’ve had agoraphobia in varying degrees for the past fifteen years. Rarely is my agoraphobia so bad I can’t leave the house. It has been though and I know many, many sufferers that can’t even leave their bedroom, just to give you some idea of the scale.
What Agoraphobia Really Is
Agoraphobia is a fear of being in a situation from which escape would be difficult. It’s very rare that agoraphobia is a sole diagnosis for a person suffering. It usually goes hand in hand with another anxiety disorder which manifests itself by having panic attacks.
Many people with agoraphobia find being in public situations difficult or even impossible. Common situations avoided are using public transport, shopping center and supermarkets.
I’ve heard agoraphobia described before as a fear of fear and I think that pretty much hits the nail on the head. For me, like most sufferers, the fear is having panic attacks. A panic attack is so terrifying and distressing, it’s something I want to avoid at all costs, therefore, I go to great lengths to avoid feeling them. This can make it extremely lonely.
Famous People With Agoraphobia
Often agoraphobia can feel like we’re being weak minded and just not try hard enough. This isn’t true. Some very powerful, intelligent and strong people throughout history have been fellow suffers, meaning we’re in good company. People such as Emily Dickinson – poet, Sigmund Freud – the founder of psychoanalysis, Kim Basinger – actress, Woody Allen, movie director, Miranda Hart – comedienne and all-around awesome woman, have suffered.
How Did This Happen?
Everyone’s story is different but that pattern is usually pretty similar. It usually starts with a trigger. Maybe a traumatic event or an accident, for example. Mine started off with having a panic attack in a certain place which made me subconsciously avoid putting myself in that situation again. The more hyperaware you become of avoiding having a panic attack makes you avoid more and more places and your World becomes smaller and smaller.
Is There A Cure?
Bu cure, there is no quick fix. Getting better is really hard work. The most effective method to begin the recovery process, in my opinion, is by doing something called graduated exposure (also known as systematic desensitization). CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is also recommended but accessing therapy can be a tough and arduous process.
If you also have agoraphobia, remember you’re not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence. Agoraphobia doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone of any race, age, gender, religion or location. The important thing to remember is to not give up you. You can get better from this.
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