Agoraphobia is something that people are becoming more aware of and many people are associating with the struggles of it. After being diagnosed with it, here are a few things I've learnt along the way.
What is Agoraphobia?
If you look it up on the internet, it is usually associated with a fear of open spaces. However, it is in fact an anxiety disorder that causes anxiety to be triggered in places where people feel they have no way to escape. It can also be associated with busy places such as shopping centres.
How does it affect people?
It brings on the symptoms experienced by any type of anxiety. It also can lead to anxiety attacks or panic attacks. The difference being that with panic attacks, a person usually fears death because of the panic whereas anxiety attacks have the same physical symptoms but different thought processes.
Agoraphobia makes normal situations feel nearly impossible. Although in most situations, there is a way to get out of a place (as you managed to get in), it doesn't feel like that. You could compare it to an animal being caught in a trap. You are free one moment, enter a situation (the trap) and then you are caught, trapped and helpless.
When people are aware of situations that bring on that level of anxiety, they then try to avoid it. Although this is understandable, it can lead to the anxiety being increased as your brain is not being reassured that you are not in fact trapped.
How to deal with agoraphobia?
There is no simple way to deal with it. The best way to initially start is to enter into the situations that trigger than anxiety with someone you trust, and continually practice going in and out of it. Although it may feel awful to start with, your subconscious will begin to realise that you are not actually trapped and that it is in fact as easy to get out as it was to get in.
Some of the situations that I struggled with:
- People's houses
As you can see from that list, those are all situations that physically are easy to get out of but on a social standard, not so much. If you just walk out of an exam, you forfeit the paper. If you walk out of the cinema at the start of a film, people get frustrated. If you just get up and leave whilst you're at someones house, you may be considered rude.
As time goes on, the only real thing that can help is being open about your difficulties and shifting your perspective on it. If people judge you for being rude, that is their problem for being ignorant. If your school know your situation, you won't be disqualified. When there is a will, there is a way and agoraphobia doesn't have to stop you living the life you want to.