Agoraphobia is a stressful phobic disorder that can take years to overcome. There are varying degrees of the illness. Some agoraphobics are so severe, they can’t leave their beds, while others only have a few days here and there where leaving the house seems too daunting a task.
Agoraphobics can be scared of traveling or being in open spaces. They can be scared of going out alone or of being made fun of. They may fear failure and embarrassment in the outside world, including the workforce. They can have strained relationships with loved ones and struggle to form new relationships. They can have monetary problems, as most are unable to maintain a job or a career.
Having had the disorder myself, I know it is not easy. Being stuck in fear can be just as debilitating as being physically paralyzed. It can feel like your room is a prison and the outside world is a place of torment and hell.
For me, every time I got close to the front door or the door to my bedroom, the overwhelming panic set in. I felt as if I was dying, and that if I went anywhere, it would lead to mine or someone else’s destruction. I feared someone might hurt me, as people have done in the past. If I stayed in my room, I thought I could avoid the pain. But, that was SO not true. By staying in my room, I avoided happiness, success and freedom, too.
If I can overcome my agoraphobia for the most part and be in recover, you can, too. I now live a full life, unafraid to go out of my house most of the time. I held down a job for two years as a peer specialist and am now a successful writer. But I don’t get my stories from staying indoors. I get it from going out of the house every day and enjoying the world around me. Finally, the world outside does not feel like a scary place.
Below are twenty suggestions that helped me overcome agoraphobia, and they can help you, too.
- Open up to those who understand. Knowing that some people have the same disorder you have and learning how they’ve dealt with it can be a big key to helping maintain your own recovery.
- Bring a book or magazine. Getting lost in another world can make this one not seem so harsh and hard to deal with. If you are focused on something else, you won’t be looking at people and imagining them staring at you or a disaster striking wherever you may be.
- Music. Carry headphones or devices with you to surround yourself with the calming presence of music and release tension and stress.
- Remember. You had a life before being an agoraphobic, and you can have a life while in recovery. Think back to all the times you had in the past when you weren’t sick or struggling with anxiety. If you were happy then, you can be happy again.
- It takes time and patience. Small acts of bravery every day can make a huge difference in getting to a happier place. A simple act of taking a shower can make a person feel more like facing the day.
- Exercise. Start with five minutes a day and work your way up. Even thirty minutes, three times a week should act as an anti-depressant and can make you see the world in a happier, less stressful way.
- Laugh. Set time every day to laugh. Whenever you find something that makes you laugh, do it for as long as you can. You can never laugh too much.
- Make a schedule. Write a list of eight or nine things to do today, such as cleaning, reading, starting a new hobby or continuing an old one. Stick to it.
- See a therapist and doctor regularly. Even if you need to get someone else to drive you. Or see if they will come to you.
- Forgive and forget. Let the guilt go, whether it is directed at yourself or others. Keep the past in the past.
- Take your medicine. When directed by a doctor, anti-anxiety and other medication can really take the edge off and help you live a normal life.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. We often compare our greatest weaknesses with others’ greatest strengths. Be fair to yourself. Only focus on how you’ve improved from one day to the next.
- Give your life meaning. Whether it is religion, a strong sense of spirituality, or a particular talent, if it makes you realize you have a purpose and a reason to exist, it should be a part of your life. Prayer or meditation can also be powerful tools to achieving peace and calm.
- Don’t isolate. Give someone a call or text. Have whatever interaction with others that you can.
- Learn to say no. The world’s not such a scary place if you know how to say no to drugs, food, sex or whatever may be pulling you down. Don’t let others make decisions for you. Practice and repeat the word, “No.” What you want is just as important as what another person wants. But what you need has to come first over what others need. You’re the one who has to live with your decisions.
- You belong in this world just as much as anyone else. You are more valuable out in the world. You can help someone in a similar situation or you can go out and learn that things are not nearly as bad as you made them out to be.
- Let your room and house become a safe place. It’s okay to have a safe place to lash out at the world and cry. But allow yourself only an hour a day to do this. The rest of the time is better spent trying to experience the world or learn that it’s not such a scary place.
- Judge less, love more. Judging yourself or others keeps you from seeing the good in yourself and everyone around you. Judging is just an opinion, and doesn’t make it fact or truth. To understand someone, you have to get to know them.
- Take time every day to increase your self-esteem. There are workbooks you can order online or books you can read. You can also join a focus group on self-esteem, even if it’s an online group. You have your own unique personality to offer this world that is different from anyone else’s. We need you.
- Get a pet. The one thing that helped the most in my recovery was to get a dog. She helped me face the world, especially as a service dog, and I was able to bring her wherever I went. Most of the time, I couldn’t leave the house without her.
Open door photo available from Shutterstock