While you enjoy going out and exploring places, some people find comfort in being a prisoner of their homes. These individuals have a severe anxiety disorder called agoraphobia. 1.7 percent of Americans experience paralyzing fear when they feel trapped in places and situations, and no one is available to offer help.
Agoraphobics are too afraid to go to a busy mall, wait in line, use public transportation, cross bridges, or enter a crowded elevator. Being in open spaces and enclosed buildings with crowds make them extremely anxious, causing them to sweat and tremble. They might also experience dizziness, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Most of them find it hard to accomplish typical day to day activities like running errands, buying groceries, and picking up the kids at school. Severe agoraphobia makes it impossible for people to venture outside, work in a traditional office, and attend social gatherings.
Their unfounded fear of feeling panic has a massive impact on their confidence, career, relationships, and finances. While only a health professional can provide the right treatment for agoraphobics, you can act as a support system. Here’s how you can help a loved one deal with the challenging symptoms of agoraphobia:
1. Understand that the disorder is real
It’s challenging to have an absolute understanding of how your loved one feels if you never experienced having a panic attack. It might not be visible to you, and the symptoms might seem trivial, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. Accompany your loved one into treatment so that you will learn about the disorder straight from a medical practitioner.
Educate yourself by reading self-help books and learning ways to overcome panic attacks such as yoga meditation retreats. You can also consider browsing through online forums, joining support groups, and reading the stories written by agoraphobics. When you understand how agoraphobia works, you will be in a better position to offer support.
2. Show empathy and compassion
It’s tempting to feel frustrated with your loved one when they can’t perform even the most straightforward errand. You don’t mean to be cruel, but a single adverse reaction will cause your friend or family member to feel depressed. You don’t fully understand the degree of their suffering, so it might be easy to trivialize their condition.
However, it will be best if you show them empathy at all times. Avoid telling them, “There’s nothing wrong,” “It’s all in your mind,” or “It’s no big deal.” Because for them, it’s a huge deal, and no matter how hard they try, it’s impossible to pull themselves together.
3. Be an ally
Agoraphobics avoid triggers and confine themselves in a safe zone. They have many limitations, and you should make them feel that you are there to offer help without a question or judgment. Although it’s difficult to relate to your loved one’s experience, always be a good listener when she shares her fears and struggles.
The gripping anxiety and painful isolation caused by agoraphobia prevent sufferers from enjoying the happiness and freedom that the outside world offers. Be there when your loved one finds the courage to leave her comfort zone. With your support and proper treatment, she can live the life she deserves.