A noticeable absence in the mental health community's mentioning of the debilitating condition is agoraphobia. This same pattern has been found in so many other areas: in books, in therapy, and in cultural society. Like many mental illnesses, agoraphobia can be a very lonely, misunderstood, and hushed condition. Not only offline, but online as well.
The term agoraphobia itself is next to foreign and virtually unknown to most. Online pieces of information will often give the simple definition:
(Noun) Extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places.
Agoraphobia: Opening Pandora's Box
Great, but that truly does not sum up what agoraphobia is or how it feels. In fact, no definition is really any help in the matter at all, because what really encompasses the spaces and places of agoraphobia is lots of fear, shame, myths, and stigma of being homebound.
Most all sufferers of agoraphobia experience horrendous panic attacks. Keep in mind, there is a vast difference between anxiety attacks versus panic attacks. People develop agoraphobia over a long process of bad panic encounters. Panic attacks are memorable, and if you get one at the grocery store, the movie theatre, your best friend’s house, at work, or at school – you never want to go there again, simply because you think you’ll experience an intense fear again that isn’t in your control. It doesn’t matter how much you want to do something, if it means avoiding the havoc of a panic attack, you’ll make sure of it. (Watch "How Agoraphobia Affects My Life")
This eventually starts affecting every area of your life. You can’t make a living, you can’t travel, you can’t attend appointments, you can’t run errands, you can’t date or have a fun day outdoors. You miss out on big moments like weddings and celebrations. Relationships and friendships falter. Often, these same people take it offensively. They may say, “You have nothing to be scared of! It’s just me!” But again, it doesn’t matter how close you are or how much you may love and trust them, you simply cannot control the unpredictability of a panic attack.
Agoraphobia Myths and Stigmas
There are also a lot of myths and stigmas that come with this phobia. Often people may think, “Why don’t you just practice leaving the house?” But what they don’t understand is that you do try, probably more than they have in anything. They may think you’re being lazy and unproductive, almost as if you’ve accepted your disorder. But you haven’t. You’re ashamed of it.
If you could snap out if it, you wouldn’t have agoraphobia.
We agoraphobics tend to make one mistake. That is, we think by avoiding what’s outside is what protects us. But what we’re really doing is making ourselves prisoner, someone who isn’t free. However, I find it’s best to remind oneself that while a ship may be safe in the harbor, that is not what ships are for.
This article is written by Annie Elizabeth Martin, a homebound writer and fellow suffer of agoraphobia. An activist in the mental health realm, Annie uses the power of words to reclaim and liberate all those who struggle.
To be a guest author on the Your Mental Health Blog, go here.
Tags: panic attackspanic disorderagoraphobia
Author, G. (2013, January 7). The Silencing of Agoraphobia, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/yourmentalhealth/2013/01/the-silencing-of-agoraphobia
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