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How do you treat/cure agoraphobia?

Posted Jun 30 2010 5:06am

I have agoraphobia and it has really been rough for me. I can’t ever leave my house without having panic attacks. Sometimes, I even get them while I am at my house. It makes my life so miserable. I can’t even get a job or go out anywhere with my girlfriend because of my agoraphobia. I am on Prozac and Lithium for it but it doesn’t seem to help. Please give me some advise!!!

First, let me say you are not alone. I am a fellow sufferer and on the outside I look perfectly normal. I go to work every day and have a full social life. But my agoraphobia has eroded my life because I have so many restrictions. I am afraid of highways, busses, subways, elevators and going far from home. At work, I am afraid they will want me to travel and I don’t know what to tell them. That I’m afraid? It sounds ridiculous to refuse to go a measly one exit on the highway.

I am coming to accept that my disorder is serious and while simple to treat, the recovery is far from easy. Let me share some of my experiences with you. Maybe some of what I will help and maybe not. I am no expert on agoraphobia and I am still suffering from it.

Things that have helped me:

1) Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you look at your limiting thoughts and practice "exposure" to things you are afraid. It helps having a calm and caring professional by my side.

2) Online support at www.PanicSurvivor.com. These people have a fighters attitude when it comes to dealing with anxiety. It is by far my favorite community that deals with anxiety.

3) Turning to friends and loved ones. My friends and family have been supportive, although I let them enable me sometimes. My friends have gone on exposures with me and told me to do it.

4) Have a good cry. When I cry and get the feelings out, my anxiety lessens. I used to cry before exposures, which helped me release all the negative feelings.

5) Working with a psychiatrist. I admit medications have not worked for me yet, but I keep trying. Research has found that a combination of medication and CBT works best. However, CBT alone is pretty effective too.

6) Reading books by people who understand. Bourne’s "Anxiety and Phobia Workbook" is a classic. Also, "Wish I Were There" is a memoir about agoraphobia. What I liked about the memoir by Allen Shawn is that is realistic. The man still has agoraphobia, but he is coping with it better.

7) Spirituality. I am not religious, but I have come to believe in a Higher Power to make sense of my senseless condition. I don’t think you have to be spiritual. But it helps me to rely on something greater than myself.

8) Self-care. I am working to eat right and exercise and get plenty of rest. Agoraphobia is stressful and takes its toll on my nerves. When I take care of myself, I send the message that I am important and worthy of love. Love tends to displace panic.

There is a lot more that I do, but I don’t want to bore you with all the details. Google agoraphobia, panic attacks, and anxiety. There is a lot of good information out there. Good luck.

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