Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that’s very common. There are about 200,000 new agoraphobia diagnoses per year in the U.S. alone. It’s defined as having unreasonable fear of places or situations where you might lose control and become trapped, unable to get help. Derived from ancient Greek, the term “agoraphobia” literally translates to “fear of the public square.” If you suffer from agoraphobia, you probably fear any situation that appears unsafe. That doesn’t necessarily mean those situations are actually unsafe, but they seem that way to you. Common triggers for agoraphobia include open spaces, elevators, crowds, public transportation, and driving on highways.
The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the world economy $1 trillion U.S. dollars per year. If you’re living with untreated agoraphobia, you’re probably already aware it comes at a high price. But the costs of agoraphobia go far beyond the financial. There are many hidden quality of life costs as well. Let’s take a closer look at the high price of your untreated agoraphobia, and then we’ll examine what you can do about it.
Your Untreated Agoraphobia Comes at a High Price
The price of agoraphobia is high. Not only does it hurt your wallet, it can have major impacts on the core things you need in order to have a live worth living. The high price of your untreated agoraphobia can include the following:
- Living small – We’ve all heard the term “living large,” but agoraphobia forces you to live small. It puts the brakes on things like going out, taking classes, trying new activities, and making new friends. Living small with untreated agoraphobia can mean merely existing inside an ever-tightening circle of constriction that just keeps on shrinking.
- Living in fear – In his book, Different Seasons, horror author Stephen King wrote, “[It’s a] terrible thing to live in fear.” Anyone who lives with an anxiety disorder like agoraphobia knows the truth of that statement on a visceral level. Constant fear and/or panic slowly corrodes the very foundations of a meaningful life.
- Isolation – Loneliness is very often the high price of living with untreated agoraphobia. You end up spending a lot of time by yourself to in order to feel safe. But did you know research suggests that chronic loneliness is considered as big a threat to your health as obesity? Learn more about the roots of loneliness.
- Shame and embarrassment – These may play a large role in your untreated agoraphobia. You may fear how you’ll react in specific situations like crowded stores or riding the subway. You might be afraid you’ll lose control and do something embarrassing. It’s human nature to avoid perceived danger. But doing so because of agoraphobia can result in a deepening shame spiral that isolates you even further.
- Inability to leave your home – The severity of agoraphobic symptoms vary widely among those with the disorder. Agoraphobia exists on a spectrum that spans from mere inconvenience and annoyance for some sufferers, to a life-shattering state of affairs for others. The most extreme end of that spectrum may result in becoming psychologically incapable of leaving the confines of your own home. Agoraphobia often starts as a response to panic attacks. Like any other mental health issue, untreated panic disorder generally worsens over time, and can result in not being able to leave home without having a panic attack. That kind of full-blown agoraphobia can easily turn everyday life into a living hell.
- Inability to work – Everyone needs to feel valuable. Humans often develop healthy self-esteem by contributing via jobs and careers. Most work involves direct interaction with your fellow humans, which can be an enormous problem for those with untreated agoraphobia. Being unable to work can involve profound ramifications to your sense of value and self-worth.
Getting Treatment for Your Agoraphobia
- Therapy – The most obvious place to start agoraphobia treatment is through therapy. There are a wide range of therapy options available. People respond differently to various types of therapy, so it’s important to find one that’s the right fit. Two therapies that have proven effective for anxiety disorders are cognitive behavioral therapy and systematic desensitization. Those with agoraphobia may need help locating a good therapist. Some therapists also offer online treatment for clients with extreme agoraphobia. Click here to find a therapist in your area.
- Self care – Another option is trying things yourself that may help ease agoraphobic symptoms. Self care generally includes methods like relaxation techniques, meditation, hypnosis, yoga, and exercise in general. There are many self help products available to guide you toward healing your agoraphobia via self care. A trip to your local bookstore, or a quick search at Amazon will turn up lots of different choices in this area.
- Medication – For some people, medication is a viable option for untreated agoraphobia. Anti depressant and/or anxiolytic medications like buspirone are commonly used in medication-based treatment. Medication should only be taken under the care of doctor or another licensed mental health care professional.
- Group support – There’s often nothing so healing as the support and understanding of others like yourself. Developing relationships with other people who “get it” can be a wonderfully freeing experience. There are millions of people the world over suffering from agoraphobia. You might check with your local mental health center about support groups, or ask your church if they have any treatment suggestions. There are also tons of online support options. One place you can begin are the support forums at Psych Central. You’ll find lots of information there about dealing with untreated agoraphobia. There are also hundreds of Facebook groups available for different types of anxiety disorders.
The price of living with your untreated agoraphobia is simply too high. It can make you isolated. It can leave you mentally paralyzed, unable to engage with life in meaningful ways. And it can definitely make you utterly miserable. The high price of your untreated agoraphobia just isn’t worth it.
Guest Blog written by Greg Weber from Driving Peace.