How Does a Homebound Agoraphobic Get Help?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve been a homebound agoraphobic for 3.5 years. I want to get help, but obviously can’t get to a therapist’s office, and I don’t work and my family has no money so I can’t afford to pay for therapy. My family also doesn’t want me in therapy, and since I live with them, my only option would be online treatment. I’ve tried to search the web for what I can do, but there doesn’t seem to be any help for someone in my situation except to just deal with it myself. If I could deal with it by myself, I would have in the last 3 years. What do I do?

Some quick background: The agoraphobia seems to be linked to when I was homeless. I lived in a car from age 16-17, and when I got out of that situation at 18, the agoraphobia began to set in. My main problem is with cars – for a while, once I was able to get to whatever the destination was, I was fine; it’s in the car that I freak out. I’ve had mental disorders (or whatever you’d like to call them) before: 2 bouts with depression, apparent kleptomania as a child, and dermatillomania as a teen. I don’t suffer from any of those anymore. Obviously my family was not great; my father was an alcoholic and drug addict, he was abusive to my mother and neglected me (both emotionally and in the criminal sense), and my mother, I suspect, suffers from undiagnosed mental illness (she seems to display a lot of manic behavior, has rage issues, and was and is emotionally, mentally, and verbally abusive).

So, clearly I need help, and I want it, but I have no idea where or how to get it.

A. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders tend to become worse over time, partly because individuals with the disorder often have difficulty tolerating uncomfortable feelings. Therefore, when possible they avoid situations that produce uncomfortable feelings. The counterintuitive result of this avoidance generally leads to an increase in anxiety levels and subsequently a degradation of one’s quality of life.

An additional problem is that you have no health insurance. One possible option is seeking treatment at a community mental health center. They offer psychiatric services to individuals without health insurance. It may be helpful to call your local community mental health center and ask for their advice. There may be some help they can offer you over the phone. Other possible options include:

  • Joining an online support group for individuals with agoraphobia. You may learn important information and coping skills from other group members. Perhaps there are some strategies that other group members have used for getting help that you might try yourself.

  • Calling local therapists and asking for their advice. They may know of low-cost or free services that may help in your situation. You should also ask them whether they offer psychotherapy sessions over the phone. Maybe someone will offer their services to you at a reduced cost.
  • Contacting the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Here’s a link to their website. Present your situation to them. They may have good advice for you.
  • Applying for two government social programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs can help you access health insurance and a monthly income. Click this link to read more about these programs.
  • Contacting a therapist on Live Person. Live Person ostensibly provides psychotherapy over the Internet. It is a pay site so there will be a charge but you may be able to hire a therapist at a discounted price. Usually the first few minutes of interaction with the therapists are free and it is during this time that you may be able to negotiate a reduced rate. If you are interested, here is a link to their website.

The bottom line is you are faced with a challenging situation. Treatments exist that can actually cure agoraphobia. I understand that you are homebound. Obviously, if you could leave your house you would have but at some point the only way to cure this problem may be to force yourself into therapy. I wish you well. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). How Does a Homebound Agoraphobic Get Help?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/25/how-does-a-homebound-agoraphobic-get-help/