Agoraphobia is a mental and behavioral disorder that can make it hard to leave your home or feel safe in public places. With agoraphobia, specific situations in open or closed spaces trigger intense fear when the individual perceives no easy way out. For example, people with agoraphobia may fear things like crowds, open spaces, or traveling on buses or trains. In some cases, the fear is so severe that people become housebound.
Read on for the best tips on treating and overcoming agoraphobia.
Help yourself to get over agoraphobia
Agoraphobia symptoms may be physical (e.g., fast heartbeat, sweaty palms, shallow breathing) and emotional (e.g., fear that this might be a medical emergency and death). These symptoms are frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope with agoraphobia.
1. Learn about the causes of agoraphobia.
There is no single cause of agoraphobia, but it is often triggered by a traumatic event such as a car accident or a natural disaster. It may also be caused by a family history of anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions. Understanding where your particular fear comes from is the first step in tackling your agoraphobia, especially if you learn to practice self-compassion and understanding.
2. Learn coping skills
By understanding which situations might lead you to panic and learning strategies to help you cope, you can decrease the extent of your reaction to conditions that usually lead to a panic attack. Experiment with different ways to deal with your response. It may help to write these down and review them frequently to ensure you know how to cope when you need them the most.
Some common methods that people have found helpful are through:
- Breathing exercise, such as diaphragmatic breathing(also known as belly breathing), helps to slow down the heart rate and promote relaxation. Likewise, pursed-lip breathing can also help to slow down the breathing rate and reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique that can help people with agoraphobia reduce their anxiety and slowly reengage with the world. PMR involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body, starting with the feet and moving up to the head. The purpose of PMR is to help the body relax and release built-up tension. For people with agoraphobia, PMR can be used as a way to gradually expose themselves to feared situations in a safe and controlled manner.
- Positive self-talk involves talking to oneself in a reassuring and supportive way, emphasizing strengths and abilities. For example, someone might say, “I can handle this,” or “I am capable of dealing with anything that comes my way.”
Unhelpful coping skills are substance abuse, e.g., alcohol, or isolating yourself from others.
3. Seek professional help
If you think you may have agoraphobia, it’s vital to seek professional help from a mental health provider. They can diagnose your condition and develop a treatment plan that may include therapy and medication that can help symptoms of agoraphobia.
4. Try exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is also known as systemic desensitization. It is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that involves gradually exposing yourself to the things you fear in a safe and controlled environment. The process is done step by step, and each reaction to the fearful circumstance is followed by retreat, relaxation, and recovery. It is best conducted with someone you trust, who can support and comfort you.
Some people conduct exposure therapy through visualization exercises. Whichever way you tackle exposure therapy, you need to be patient, as it takes time and emotional energy to increase exposure in slow steps. This technique can help you to overcome your fears and live a more normal life.
5. Take care of yourself physically and mentally
In addition to seeking professional help, there are also things you can do at home to help manage your condition. Start with eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. You should also avoid alcohol and drugs, as they can worsen anxiety symptoms. Remember that the healthier you are overall, the better equipped you are to deal with situations that arise.
So, to improve your situation, address underlying physical or emotional issues that may be holding you back from getting better.,,
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