This is how the debilitating condition known as Agoraphobia, commonly known as the fear of open spaces, develops. It starts with a person who is already struggling with generalized anxiety. The anxiety sufferer will ultimately develop an additional fear over the course of their anxiety disorder if it is left unchecked. They will begin to associate the places and situations they may have had a panic attack with the panic itself. If they had a panic attack at the grocery store, they will be likely to avoid grocery stores to keep the panic away. This leaves them trapped at the only place they feel comfortable and secure, which is their own home. Because of the potential of another panic attack occurring outside of their home, they eventually will stop trusting the outside world altogether. This affects all aspects of the life of the anxiety sufferer, who is now a bona fide agoraphobic. The unfortunate part is that the sufferer rarely talks about the fears they are living with, so even the closest people in their lives will be unaware of what is happening even though they may have a hunch that something is wrong.
In my life, being an agoraphobic was much scarier than my social anxiety. I was able to communicate with people at a respectable rate but I was constantly being misunderstood by others. The word would eventually get around to me that people thought I was a snob or that I was too shy, for example, and I realized that people were treating me differently depending on the label they had put on me. The person who thought I was a snob would keep conversations with me very short and would have little to do with me; the person who thought I was too shy he or she would try and force me to open up to them. It was strange, to say the least, and I wished that I just had the guts to tell people how it really was. Unfortunately I was scared of being thought of as crazy or weird, and I worried that people would not want to have anything to do with me.
I have since learned that people are a lot more caring and understanding than I thought. Most people want what is best for you, so opening up about your fears and what is holding you back is a great option. I didn’t start to open up to people about what was going on with me until I was stuck in the rut of being housebound for 31 days and realized I had to confront my fears or die alone. I was in my safe zone at that time, away from anything that would set off my unbearable physical sensations of anxiety, but I knew that I had to start finding a way to step up and take my life back.
My 31 days of Agoraphobia came to an end towards the end of that summer. I had no choice because my time off work was coming to an end. I forced myself to stop avoiding things and start facing the public places I feared the most. Although I still avoided family and friends in order to hide my condition, the overwhelming feelings of intense panic slowly started to subside as I put effort into reconditioning a new mindset about the places I feared. I also worked on making the lifestyle changes that were necessary for my recovery from GAD and panic disorder.
Even famous people, such as actors and actresses, can suffer from Agoraphobia. Kim Basinger once said, “When I came to Hollywood, I could wear a bikini, but I was in misery because people were looking at me. So I wore baggy clothes and watched other girls get the big parts and awards. I used to go home and play piano and scream at night to let out my frustrations. And this led to my Agoraphobia”. This makes you realize that everyone, no matter how seemingly happy and successful, can be dealing with something that makes them not want to leave their house. I have felt this way; many of you reading this have felt this way too. The best thing you can do for yourself is to go out and face your fears in a systematic way, and you will see that what has been holding you back is a figment of your imagination. You can control your fear and panic; you just have to believe that you can.
Have you had an experience with Agoraphobia? Are you still struggling or have you been able to overcome this fear? I’d love to hear your own personal story so please share.
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