Learning to Break the Habit of Avoidance
Believe it or not, you can overcome agoraphobia! Some people describe Agoraphobia as being a fear of open spaces or fear of being in a public place but I want you to understand that although these may be symptoms of agoraphobia they are not necessarily agoraphobia itself. A more appropriate definition of agoraphobia would be "the intense fear of anxiety and panic symptoms to the point of avoidance or avoidance behavior.
Agoraphobia can be one of the most challenging parts of an anxiety disorder. It is important to say that not everyone with anxiety or a panic disorder experiences agoraphobia. Agoraphobia has many different emotional and mental symptoms, one of those symptoms is avoidance of specific situations , such as being alone. This is a common characteristic to most sufferers. Agoraphobia is an illness where avoidance dominates. Agoraphobia can develop slowly over time or it can develop immediately after a traumatic experience with panic. The complications of this illness only grows with each avoided situation.
For example: When a person is out in public (whether it be shopping, going to the doctors, driving, or anything else for that matter) and has a panic attack or intense anxiety, they are usually so scared by this experience that they leave the situation to find a "safe" place. This experience causes the one suffering to search themselves and try to make sense of what just happened to them. When no logical explanation can be found, the brain assumes that it must be the place and/or situation they were in that is dangerous and sends a signal to avoid it in the future.
When the person tries to go back to that same place or situation, the mind tricks the person into thinking something is wrong by sending more anxiety and panic sensations. Instead of running from a real threat, the person then is running from their internal thoughts and feelings. True agoraphobia is avoidance due to "fear of panic/anxiety symptoms and sensations".
Lack of understanding about the prolonged effects of stress on the mind and body can lead to an increase of agoraphobic behavior. Those who do not understand what is happening to them have a huge tendency to avoid more and more as those symptoms present themselves in different places and/or situations. It is not uncommon to hear of agoraphobics who are unable to leave the comfort of their own home and have not done so in weeks, months or even years.
It is extremely important for a person who has had a panic attack or is experiencing intense anxiety to learn about what is happening to them. Understanding body symptoms and even thought patterns that are common during prolonged stress helps to limit any unnecessary fears and concerns. Prompt education is a major factor in prompt recovery. The sooner a person understands what is happening to them the better. This does not mean that someone who has been suffering for years who has never understood their condition will never be able to recover. Although it may be true that it may be more challenging for them to recover, they can still recover no matter how long they have been dealing with their agoraphobia.
Anyone can overcome agoraphobia regardless of how much hold it has on their life. Through education, baby steps in the right direction, and support; healing and recovery is a realistic goal that can be achieved providing the sufferer has a clear and determined attitude to recover.
To overcome Agoraphobia , an individual must be willing to step out of their comfort zone to challenge misbeliefs and uncomfortable body symptoms and sensations. As much as you want this part of an anxiety disorder to be gone in a flash, I admit that it takes much patience and determination to recover.
There is no time limit to recovery with agoraphobia. Each individual is unique in his or her agoraphobia and the time it takes to overcome it varies from person to person. One thing is for sure though, you can overcome it as long as you persist and do not give up.