Do you struggle with not wanting to leave your home? Are you known to avoid situations that may cause stress? Perhaps you have found that you are limiting where you go based on what feels safe. And does it seem like the places where you feel safe keeps changing?
If you said yes to any of the above questions, you might have agoraphobia anxiety, but what exactly is agoraphobia? You may also be wondering how you can begin therapy for agoraphobia anxiety as part of your mental health regimen and life.
The thought of having to leave the house to get to therapy (or go anywhere) may be overwhelming. This is far more common than you may think and you are not alone. Help and hope are available. This is where receiving specific agoraphobia therapy can be very useful. Please read on to learn more about agoraphobia therapy and agoraphobia anxiety.
What is Agoraphobia Anxiety?
Agoraphobia anxiety is defined as the “extreme fear of entering open or crowded places, leaving one’s own home, or being in a place where escape is difficult.” Agoraphobia is also categorized as an anxiety disorder.
What exactly causes agoraphobia anxiety? Typically, it’s a direct result of experiencing panic attacks or extreme fear of a certain situation. Some people may also experience agoraphobia if they’re afraid of catching an illness or encountering a violent crime, or feeling out of control when out and about. For some people there is an obvious trigger of when this started and for others it gradually developed over time.
For those who live with agoraphobia anxiety, it can dramatically affect their everyday lives. It’s not uncommon for people to also experience depression with agoraphobia and it is also very common to experience panic attacks or the more severe panic disorder along with agoraphobia anxiety too.
Living with this type of anxiety is not easy, but the good news is there are treatment options for agoraphobia that can help ease your fear and teach you how to reclaim your life. Keep reading to learn what your options are for agoraphobia therapy.
Agoraphobia Therapy Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a proven, scientific method to help treat all kinds of anxiety disorders. CBT is an approach to therapy that reinforces the idea that our thoughts (the ‘cognitive’), our actions (the ‘behavioral’) and our feelings (both physical sensations and emotions) are all interconnected. CBT works by challenging the negative thoughts that take root in your brain and the vicious cycles of behaviors that harm us as well as the stopping of good behaviors that help us to cope with life.
When you have a fear of leaving the house, you may have thoughts such as, “If I leave the house, I could get into a car accident and be seriously injured,” or “What if a mass shooting happens while I am out?” or “What if I get into a panic and can’t calm down when in public?”
CBT can help you overcome these thoughts by challenging them. For example, they may be replaced with, “What is the evidence of something actually happening to me while I’m out?” When you retrain your brain to counteract the negative fears, you can begin to live your life again. CBT will also help you learn how to cultivate supportive thoughts too, such as “Although I feel anxious, I am learning how to get out of the house, one step at a time.” CBT will also help you learn mindfulness and breathing techniques that can help you calm your mind and body down. This can make a very big difference
Agoraphobia Therapy Using Exposure Therapy
While it sounds scary, exposure therapy can do wonders for your anxiety over certain situations. Working with a trained therapist, they will walk you through imagining a situation that causes you stress. By doing this, you’ll learn how to manage your emotions in the moment over a stressful situation. Then overtime you will learn to face specific situations in ‘real life’.
Agoraphobia Therapy Using Lifestyle Changes
Most people underestimate the power of lifestyle changes. While we know that it is great for the body and overall well-being, it can work miracles for your mind and spirit too.
Simple changes such as modifying your diet to incorporate whole foods, less processed sugar, and more fruits and vegetables can help dramatically. Incorporating dietary changes can help give your body and brain the right type of fuel you need to power through the day. When your body and brain are getting the right types of nutrients they need, you will be more equipped to handle the everyday stresses that come your way. And the same goes for making sure that you drink enough water too. Lack of hydration is proven to increase anxiety.
Another great, but small change, is to move your body. You don’t have to do anything crazy, but even a short 10-minute walk (even at home) can help refresh your body and brain. This is especially useful if you are beginning to feel an anxiety attack coming on. Going for a walk in fresh air can really help the mind relax and calm down.
Coping with the stress of agoraphobia anxiety can wear anyone down. It is not a nice way to live and the good news here is that it is treatable. Please know that you don’t have to continue to struggle any more. If you are ready to take the next step to overcome agoraphobia anxiety, please reach out to me to discuss how agoraphobia therapy can be tailored to your specific needs. Click to read more about the anxiety treatment I offer.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 15 years of experience. I specialize in anxiety treatments, including agoraphobia therapy and have received advanced specialist training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy. Please feel free to contact me at my Honolulu or London clinic to set up an Online Therapy Test Drive.