Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia
Panic disorder with agoraphobia is characterized by avoiding places or activities that cause anxiety, like places far from home or crowded rooms.
Someone who suffers from agoraphobia usually has experienced at least one panic attack; he or she then avoids any similar situation where initial panic had set in to escape the chance of having another panic attack.
Panic attacks are frightening. A surge of intense anxiety is felt over the whole body.
A sufferer may feel chest discomfort or tightness, a racing pulse, a pounding heart, numbness, trembling, nausea, dizziness, like he or she is choking, have trouble breathing or feel surreal or detached from him or herself.
As a child, Roger was bitten by an unruly dog in his neighborhood.
This never really affected him until years later, when he was walking near his home and was startled by an angry dog off its leash.
The owner rounded up the dog quickly, but for Roger, panic set in. He started to feel pain and tightness in his chest and thought he was having a heart attack.
He immediately when to the emergency room, but the doctor assured him there were no physical complications.
The next day, Roger woke up with similar chest discomfort, and went to the hospital again.
Luckily, this time, he met with a compassionate doctor who explained that Roger was experiencing panic attacks.
Although, Roger was relieved to hear he was not dying, his fear spiraled out of control.
He rarely left his house, unless it was with someone he trusted, for fear of having another panic attack.
This came with huge professional and social costs. Roger was suffering from panic disorder with agoraphobia.
Besides fear of leaving the house, other agoraphobia symptoms include a fear of being alone, of crowds, of public places like a shop or movie theatre, being trapped, of driving or being a passenger on a bus, train or plane, helplessness, depression, a dependence on others, or a fear of dying, losing control or going insane when experiencing an agoraphobia panic attack.
It was once thought that agoraphobia was limited to feeling anxious in open spaces, but this is no longer the only case.
Breaking Your Agoraphobic Habits
Agoraphobia disorder is based on avoidance behavior.
Judy first started avoiding elevators because of the sensation she felt of being trapped. This was mild at first and had little effect on her life.
Gradually, however, she avoided plane and bus trips, small rooms, or crowds of people because she felt there was no escape.
The more places added to her taboo list, the more her everyday, functional life was affected.
The longer you engage in avoidance behavior, the harder this habit is to break.
But, you CAN break the habit, no matter how chronic it is, and take charge today.
Pick one place, situation or activity that you fear and avoid. Everyday go to that location or participate in that activity for five minutes.
You can even bring a close friend with you at first. You will undoubtedly feel anxious or even have a panic attack the first few times.
But these exercises will help you realize that symptoms of agoraphobia and panic will not physically harm you.
In fact, these uncomfortable feelings will pass (Panic attacks usually only take a few minutes to peak).
Eventually increase your time spent facing your fear for ten minutes a day, fifteen minutes a day and then alone, reminding yourself that you are not actually in danger.
Completing these activities on a regular basis will help you completely overcome agoraphobia.
Give yourself credit. Somewhere inside you is an overpowering courage ready to be tapped.
On Your Way to Recovery
As you start overcoming agoraphobia, your panic attacks will start to lose their intensity.
In fact you will consciously be able to stop your feelings of anxiety from escalating into a panic attack.
You will acknowledge that they are symptoms of agoraphobia that cannot hurt you.
By telling yourself, even if you do have a panic attack, it is not the end of the world, and you can avert the panic attack from happening.
Adopt positive thoughts, like I’m feeling anxious but I am really enjoying this party or this shopping excursion or this walk on a beautiful day.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia can be further managed by adopting relaxation techniques.
When your body becomes relaxed, your anxious thoughts start to subside.
If you feel panic setting in, consciously slow down your breathing. Inhale and exhale fully.
Completely focus your mind on this act; you can even say in your head “breathe in” as you inhale and “breathe out” as you exhale.
By diverting your full attention to breathing, there will be no room for anxious thoughts.
Combine breathing with stretching.
Stand shoulder width apart and slow down your breathing. As you inhale stretch you arms straight above your head; as you exhale release your arms.
These stretches will transfer a sense of calm over your whole body.
Activities like tai chi, yoga, qi kung and meditation help you adopt helpful breathing, stretching and posture techniques.