Agoraphobia: A Debilitating Anxiety Disorder

According to Wikipedia, agoraphobia is “an anxiety disorder defined as a morbid fear of wide open spaces, crowds or uncontrolled social conditions”. Agoraphobia comes from the Greek word “agora” meaning “marketplace” and implies an extreme fear of open spaces. It is a debilitating fear which can keep a person confined within their own home, literally making them a prisoner inside the walls of their home. According to Wikipedia, agoraphobia is more common in women than men and accounts for approximately 60% of all phobias.

The Root of the Problem

Sometimes the root can be found in early childhood, but can also originate in adolescence or adulthood. Any prior event that caused the person to feel threatened, humiliated or unsafe in a public place can become the root cause of agoraphobia. Anyone who has ever suffered a panic attack can easily understand how debilitating these anxieties can be.

A Willing Participant in the Recovery Process

Overcoming fears and anxieties requires a willingness on the part of the person who suffers from the anxiety disorder to seek the help needed to overcome the fear and gain the freedom to live well in life. Many times, taking that first step is the most difficult one, and working with a therapist is advised. Most people are able to face their fears and find the freedom to begin moving forward. Progress is usually seen in small steps forward, as the person gains more strength to continue pressing through the fears.

I had a friend many years ago who suffered from agoraphobia. She remained in her home throughout her adult life, depending upon family members to do all the shopping for her. She never ventured outside her self-imposed comfort zone. She seemed perfectly normal in every other aspect of her life. She simply was unable to go anywhere and chose to manage her anxieties by avoiding the stressors. Although she seemed content, she often stated that she missed being able to attend church services; however, her anxieties were stronger than her desire to push through the fear.

Never Give Up!

As with overcoming any difficulty in life, recovery is a process, not a one-time event. Most often it is two steps forward and one step back. The key to success is found in not allowing that one step backward to prevent the person from trying again to overcome their anxieties. Confronting the fear is the key to overcoming and gaining victory over anxieties, including agoraphobia. Both medication and therapy can help with the confrontation and enable greater success in living a full and happy life free from debilitating anxieties.