Every day, I feel afraid. My fear often worsens in public spaces. For example, I find it very difficult to get on the bus, to go to the supermarket or even to the cinema. As well as feeling fearful, I am constantly nervous. This all began a couple of years ago and I am not sure why.
My family and friends dismiss my feelings and tell me to face me fears, but I frequently suffer from panic attacks. This situation seems to be getting worse and it is getting to the stage where I feel unable to be out in public alone. I am so embarrassed.
What can I do?
Thank you for your message. I know that what you are currently experiencing is incredibly difficult. Please do not be embarrassed, for it is a brave act to ask for help!
The sense of extreme fear and nervousness that you describe, in addition to feeling unable to cope in public alone, suggests that you may be experiencing Agoraphobia. To put plainly, Agoraphobia is the fear of public spaces, particularly places where escape might be difficult. It is an anxiety disorder that is more common than you might expect. Research indicates that two in every one hundred anxiety sufferers may experience the condition. It can feel so very discouraging and disheartening when our loved ones cannot understand or empathise with our feelings. Take note and be encouraged Rosa that you are not alone and that thousands upon thousands of people across the world, from all different walks of life share similar experiences.
The cause of Agoraphobia is complex and varied. Often, when we are suffering from anxiety, we come to feel safe in our home environment, a place in which we can feel in control. This feeling of safety, forges a sense of healing and often acts as an escape from the anxiety we experience each day at work or spaces in which we cannot control. As a consequence, we subliminally attribute danger to the outside world. This thought alone can trigger panic attacks, fear, anxiousness and uncertainty that over a period of time becomes debilitating. The condition can worsen if a person was to associate the panic attacks with the specific places where they occurred, for example at the supermarket, on the bus or at the cinema. It is logical that the person would then seek to avoid these places or situations moving forwards.
Given that you have been struggling with this issue for a couple of years, I recommend that you visit your doctor and that you also consider counselling in order to attain additional support. The counselling process will allow you the opportunity to explore the root cause of your anxiety as well as enabling you to reflect upon your current levels of confidence and self-belief. It is vitally important that you feel able to manage your panic attacks until they subside, therefore prioritising breathing techniques and coping mechanisms for when panic strikes is a must.
Breathing in fact, is key for you moving forwards Rosa and something I suggest that you practice daily from now on. Take several minutes each day to find a relaxing, calm space. Be mindful of any tension that you are carrying in your face, neck, shoulders and lower body. Try to release this tension by relaxing your muscles. Close your eyes and sit up straight. Take a long, deep breath through your nose. Hold your breath for three seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat. As simple as that. No magic tricks or complexity involved. Just calm, slow breathing. Taking this time to care for yourself each day is the first of many lifestyle changes that you can embrace in order to promote your well-being.
Other actions that you can take as you begin your road to recovery include participating in regular exercises, eating more healthily and drinking plenty of water. Avoiding alcohol, drugs and caffeine as well as taking walks in order to relax in an outside space away from the home environment are also essential steps that you can initiate as of today.
Have courage Rosa, for agoraphobia is a condition that you can recover from. One day at a time.
Best wishes to you,
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