Although agora literally means an open, public space, agoraphobia is much more complex.
If you find yourself avoiding particular places or activities, because you worry you will have a panic attack, you may have agoraphobia.
Maybe you do not even realize symptoms like chest pains, numbness, and a racing pulse are a form of anxiety, whenever you are far from home, are in a crowded place, are away from loved ones or are standing in line, for example.
You may feel like you are having heart problems or a stroke; you might think you are going insane or obsess about death.
These feelings increase your anxiety which increases the symptoms – it’s a vicious cycle.
You find yourself cutting all social ties or rarely leaving the house, so you can stay in a safe bubble; your agoraphobia is taking over your life.
You may have been told that agoraphobia will always be a part of your life.
The good news is that it is completely stoppable and you can fully overcome it.
It is true that panic attacks are associated with this specific phobia; the key is to face the situations that cause panic and eventually eliminate the anxiety.
First, understand that your agoraphobia is not your fault. The amygdala in your brain is the main culprit.
In everyone, the amygdala is activated, creating a “fight-or-flight” reaction, when real danger is present.
The amygdala, of those who have agoraphobia or another panic condition, is constantly activated, causing a sensation of anxiety even when there is no actual threat.
If you are agoraphobic, your brain has been programmed to subconsciously create anxious responses; these are not based on logical thinking, but false instinctual reactions.
You can reprogram the subconscious controls in your brain to only react to actual danger.
You can do this without band-aid solutions, such as medication or therapy; you can get rid of your anxiety through agoraphobia treatment steps.
One treatment for agoraphobia is exposure.
Let’s say you limit your travel to only the occasional trip to the corner store near your apartment.
Instead of maintaining this behavior, you should walk to a shop, park or other public place a little farther away.
Gradually increase your travel distance away from home, first with someone you trust, and then alone.
This exposure will allow you to see that fears, associated with your agoraphobia, are really tricks of the mind.
Although you will probably experience panic attacks at first, you will see that they will not actually put you in any real form of danger.
Identify what you are avoiding, and reverse this pattern. This is easier said than done, but you have the power to do this.
Reward yourself every time you overcome an avoidance behavior.
If you have a day where you do not succeed, this does not mean you have failed the whole recovery process.
You can continuously try again and increase your comfort zone, as part of the treatment of agoraphobia.
By exposing yourself to places or activities you normally avoid, you are reprogramming your brain and “teaching” your amygdala not to react to irrational fears.
Diversion tactics are also part of the repertoire of agoraphobia treatments.
To avoid feeling anxiety before or during an activity that makes you uncomfortable, do something that occupies your mind, so that you are not overwhelmed by panic.
If you are about to go to a social occasion for the first time in a while, and are feeling anxious, try counting down from 100, listing every word you can think of that starts with a certain letter, or listening to your favorite song and singing every single word.
On the way to the party, count how many blue vehicles drive by, look for unique attributes people all around you have, or repeat a comforting mantra, like “this is just a panic attack – it won’t hurt me”.
These diversion techniques will occupy your mind so there is no room for anxious thoughts.
Incorporating a hobby is another ideal diversion tactic.
For example, if it is difficult to leave the house, you could take up photography.
While taking a walk, look for items to take pictures of and concentrate on getting a focused shot.
This will distract your mind from your previous agoraphobic thoughts and feelings.
Do Not Let Agoraphobia Define You
You are more than just a person with agoraphobia. You are a person with your own talents, passions and people who care about you.
Agoraphobia has probably prevented you from fully embracing these.
It is time to remove agoraphobia from the center of your life and eventually eliminate it.
This means you need to stop researching your condition on the internet or in books.
Stop making it the main topic of conversation.
You need to stop thinking about and blaming past traumas or memories for your agoraphobia, and start concentrating on the future.
The less you focus on agoraphobia, the more you can train your sub-conscious to develop new and positive habits.