It is quite common to see most people feeling nervous when having to head out. The worry of getting into an accident or maybe getting robbed are natural emotions people feel when having to leave their comfort zones. However, if the fear of leaving your house is heightened to the point where you cannot even function properly, chances are, you have Agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is the name given to the unnatural fear of open spaces. People with this phobia suffer from the basic thought of even stepping outside to the balcony for a breath of fresh air. What does this fear stem from, you ask? It can actually be caused due to a variety of reasons, which we will get to later below in a separate section.
Symptoms and Signs
It is natural for human beings to be afraid of the unknown, and that also applies for going out to the market or simply taking a step out of your house for a walk down the park. You will never really know what will happen next to you as you leave the comfort and safety of your own abode, but it is quite irrational to let that fear obstruct your daily lifestyle and stop you from ever going outside.
There are many ways to determine if you or a loved one of yours has this phobia:
- The feeling of rapid heartbeats
- Hands and feet feeling sweaty and sticky
- Shortness of breath and dizziness just by the thought of going outside
- Stomach cramps and excessive headaches.
Though these symptoms might vary between different people based on the severity of the fear, it can still prove to be quite a hindrance to experience at least one or two of the above mentioned signs on a daily basis.
As a result, people suffering from agoraphobia will try to avoid being in such circumstances in the first place. For example, from ordering food online to completing bank work from home, there is nothing a person with this fear of open spaces will do outside. This is termed as behavioral avoidance in psychological terms.
Causes and Common Triggers
Not every phobia stems from underlying mental disorders. A widespread misinformation about Agoraphobia is that it stems from panic disorders. There has been a research completed on this argument as well, where researchers found almost no link between the phobia and the disorder in question. Unlike other phobias, Agoraphobia can actually be caused by external man-made factors.
Some of the most common man-made causes of Agoraphobia are acts of terrorism, crime, physical illnesses and/or frightening accidents that have taken place in the distant past. The last issue is also related to the first two cases of crime and terrorism.
A lot of times, accidents that take place outside happen due to crimes such as robbery or muggings. People caught up in unfortunate terrorism acts also have a high chance of developing Agoraphobia later in their life.
However, if none of these above mentioned points apply to you, yet the symptoms of Agoraphobia are present, you might have inherited the certain genes responsible for this phobia from your parents. This case is very rare, however, not completely unreal. If you genetics is the cause of your fear of open spaces, you need to talk to a counselor immediately.
Similar to every other phobia, Agoraphobia also comes with its own treatments. The easiest way to treat Agoraphobia is by maintaining a proper diet and lifestyle. Try to incorporate a bit of exercise on a day to day basis in order to keep your brain and heart functioning in a healthy manner. Alongside this, you should also try to avoid consuming drinks that contain caffeine.
One other way to keep yourself relaxed whenever you start to feel stressed out is to meditate or simply practice deep breathing. Try breathing in slowly and letting it out in turns of three. Slow and carefully measured breathing will allow you to be more in tune with your surroundings, therefore also notice the safeness and comfort around you.
For medical help, doctors or your psychologist might put you through an Exposure therapy. During this session, your general physician might put you in a safe, controlled room with Virtual Reality simulations.
The virtual reality sessions will expose you to situations which you generally are afraid of. But there is no need to worry about this, as the session is very slow and will be conducted in your own pace and comfort. You will also have perfectly sound consent over the entire process, so you can stop the session whenever you feel uncomfortable.
If nothing seems to work for you, the doctor might prescribe you with over the counter medication to keep yourself relaxed and easy-going. Medications such as anti-depressants and relaxants will help you in sleeping better during the night while also functioning properly during the day.
Your physician might also prescribe you serotonin uptake medications depending on the severity of your phobia. In very severe cases, the medication is combined with Exposure therapy as well.
What Should You Do If You Have It?
The best way to cure yourself of Agoraphobia is to maintain certain techniques in your life. The doctor and the pills that come with it can do only so much in treating your phobia. The end result will always depend on you and your willpower to overcome your fear of open spaces.
It will take a lot of time to convince yourself that it is perfectly safe outside, however, nobody is telling you to rush through it. Take your time and try to understand why you are so afraid of going outside. If it does not make sense to you, talk to someone you love and explain your feelings and worries.
While Agoraphobia might disrupt your daily lifestyle to a wide extent, there is a good chance that you will be able to overcome it with proper changes made to your life and also by pushing yourself to get better. Don’t feel shy or embarrassed to have this phobia. Like everything else in this world, you can also overcome your fear of open spaces with hard work and perseverance.