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Do Meds Really Help? I'm agoraphobic and can't go too far fr...
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Do Meds Really Help? I'm agoraphobic and can't go too far from home

I'm pretty much a mess right now.  I only feel comfortable going out when it's to a place not far from home, at night, when it's not hot, when there's not a lot of traffic, etc.  I'm trying hard to do this without meds but no matter how many times I convince myself that "things are ok...you're not gonna die," I still get tunnel vision, light headed and I feel terrible--like I need to lay down.  I can't get over this and it's hindering my progress big time.

So screw it, I'm open to meds.  My shrink said take Zoloft daily and klonopin (as needed).  I haven't tried Zoloft yet.  Klonopin seems ok but I worry about long term use.  Plus I haven't really "tested" klonopin in a really "nervous" situation yet.  

I also have trouble staying asleep for more than 2-3 hours.  Will Zoloft make this WORSE or better?

Lastly, what has worked for some of you suffers of agoraphobia?  My shrink is a huge promoter of Zoloft.  He thinks it will work wonders for me.  What do you think?  He's an MD, and I respect that, but he doesn't personally know what agoraphobia feels like.  I'd rather poll people that have gone through what I'm going through.

Thanks so much,
James
15 Comments Post a Comment
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3143828_tn?1343015424
Hi James, I'm sorry you are struggling so much right now:(
I have been taking Klonopin for 4 years and it has helped greatly. (I have anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder) I am prescribed 4x daily or as needed. (.5mg tablets). I take one in the morning, and one at night- to help sleep. I will take one if I feel any sort of panic, because panic attacks just feed on themselves. Fighting through them is so difficult and ****** and exhausting.
After a lot of time I have learned to control my anxiety fairly well and recognize some of my definite triggers for panic attacks or what will make uncomfortable- because of that I have changed a lot over the past few years and rarely have panic attacks at this point in my life although I am still an anxious person in general and want keep that in check. I really trust my dr a lot and have been seeing him for 2 years, it can take a little time to find a dr that you can feel close to. Look for a dr you really like! They need to know how your body and mind works.
Ok so, I guess the best way I can answer your questions overall.. Klonopin seems like a great med for you to try. It helps a lot and as time goes by you will figure yourself out and not "feel like you're gonna die" so much. Having severe anxiety is something you need to learn to work with and it sounds like meds will help you start getting where you want to be. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about zoloft, sorry.
But I am prescribed to trazedone for sleep and I have taken it for a while, it's ok. But as of recently I just take benadryll and a klonopin because I have not been sleeping well (stresssS). The benadryll helps! Trazedone made me tired in the morning but benadryll wears off in four hours.
It seems like I wrote a lot of stuff- but I hope some of it is helpful.
Good luck and keep your head up.
- Leah
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1211508_tn?1343083205
Hi Leah.  Thank you so very much for your post.  I really appreciate it. It was encouraging, especially coming from someone who "gets" this disease (or whatever you wanna call it).  Those things you mentioned in your post....believe me, I can relate to all of them.  

Anyway I want to wish you continued success in your battles with anxiety.  It sounds like you've got a good thing working for you and that's awesome!!  

Be well & GL to you as well,
James
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Avatar_f_tn
I had agoraphobia when I was 14. Panic attacks started at age 12. At age 18 I took Paxil. This was a miracle drug for me. On day one of taking Paxil all panic attacks ceased and I was able to go anywhere and regain my confidence. I never thought I would be "cured". I was honestly starting to accept that this disease would be permanent and I would have to live around it. Now I am 24, I haven't had a panic attack since that day I started Paxil at age 18. I don't know if it will work for you, but it was a godsend for me.... Good luck, stay strong. One day this will only be a distant memory and your life will be back to normal.
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3183999_tn?1344649018
Hi James,

I have had a panic disorder with agoraphobia for the past 15 years (I am 38 yrs old).  I have been on just about every SSRI out there, as well as about 10 years of therapy (on and off as needed).  I am currently on Savella and Lexapro, along with Xanax 4x daily. My symptoms come and go and change over time.  Right now I am a lot like you - I don't drive, I only like to ride on cars with certain "safe" people, and I HATE highways, though I am getting better (again - like I said, my symptoms wax and wane).

First, I need to say that I think you should see a PSYCHIATRIST, NOT an MD.  Panic disorders are tricky buggers and MD's just don't have as much knowledge about how to deal with them (no offense to any MD's out there).  Also, it sounds like your doc is a "one drug man" - which is not a good sign.  Every person reacts to every SSRI differently.  Zoloft made me MORE depressed, but it is wonderful for other people.  

I also wanted to say that it is great that Angel was able to see all symptoms disappear on Paxil, but I have NEVER had my anxiety go away with ANY medication.  I may have panic attacks my whole life - but I am STILL LIVING.  Therapy is a MUST for ME.  That may not be so for others.  Meds are a MUST for ME.  Again, that may not be so for others.  

I have never taken Klonopin, but Xanax works great for me - it always has.  I have trouble with sleep, as well - I have to have a bedtime routine and use meditation along with medication to make sure I GO TO SLEEP (I get very manic at night).  

SO - I guess my main advice would be that you get a referral to a psychiatric clinic, preferably one with several docs and therapists to allow you to find the "right fit" for you.  In the meantime, you can begin the Zoloft, but just be cognizant of your mood and keep a DAILY RECORD.  This can help you to really recognize how you are doing.

Panic attacks suck.  Truly - I would not wish them on my worst enemy.  But you are NOT ALONE - and you CAN regain your life (even if it is like me, in stages!!).

~Peace & Blessings~
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3183999_tn?1344649018
Duh...I just re-read your post and saw that you DO see a psychiatrist.  But it sounds like he already has set ideas about your treatment - that just strikes me the wrong way.  Anyway, sorry that I posted all that above and it probably makes no sense now!!!  I had to see two different psychiatrists before I found the one that was open to working WITH me, rather than just dictating my treatment.  I also see a therapist who has HAD an anxiety disorder, so he and I actually discuss what my shrink and I decide, as well.  They are in the same office and really WORK TOGETHER to help me BE WELL.

As a mother and wife, I cannot allow myself to STOP FUNCTIONING...but I have had some truly horrible periods during all this.  I can give you a few things that have made a big difference:
- GETTING SUNLIGHT (in the winter I use a sunlamp)
- EXERCISE - even if it is just walking up and down my street (as there have been times that I can't let my house out of my sight)
- TALKING ABOUT IT - it helps so much to know I am NOT ALONE
- JOURNAL WRITING
- SELF HELP BOOKS - sounds cheesy, I know - but the more EDUCATED I am about my disorder, the better I am able to recognize my "panic thoughts" for what they are
- ASKING FOR HELP WHEN I NEED IT - I have a wonderful support system of people who are willing to do just about anything to help me live as normal a life as possible
- MEDICATIONS - like I said, I have taken pretty much every SSRI on the market over the past 15 yrs...some have worked for years at a time and then just stopped for no apparent reason.  You HAVE to have a psych that you can COMMUNICATE with!
- THERAPY - some people can "do it on their own", but I ain't one of 'em!  

I hope this helps.  It sounds like our symptoms are very similar, so please feel free to contact me through this site ANYTIME!  

Good luck & God bless
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3183328_tn?1351187117
Hi I'm currently dealing with the same thing. I can't leave my house at all. The farthest I can get from it is 10 minutes away. I was wondering how I can get farther away from it. I can only walk, I'm unable to drive since I'm only 15. I can't even get in a car. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get out of the house, cause I get really scared. But I don't get scared till it get to the point of me actually leaving, then I just shut down and go back in the house.

I'm afraid of having a panic attack. The last time i went out was in May, and I went to the mall to buy lotion with my mom. Everytime I looked up and saw all those people I'd tense up. Like I would dig my nails into the palms of my hands and every muscle in my body would just be so tense. And it felt like my throat would close off and I would just freeze wherever I was and I needed my mom to walk me out and let me breathe. It's been like this since February and it just got so much worse from when it started.

I was wondering if you had any suggestions like, what baby steps can I take that helped you? Cause I'm so young, I need to be in school, and I got withdrawn from a school you only go to twice a week for an hour in April. This is really hard on me.
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3183999_tn?1344649018
Hi Haley,

Have you gone to a doctor or psychiatrist about your anxiety?  If not, I would really urge you to do so...getting a diagnosis and on the proper medication (if necessary) is the best first step.  Since you ARE so young and, therefore, are catching this early, you stand a great chance of changing your thinking before it becomes as ingrained as someone who is older.

Getting back into school needs to be a top priority for you and your family.  A psychiatrist and talk therapist can REALLY help you with that!  There are offices that specialize in children and teenagers - it would be great if you could find one!  Until you can PHYSICALLY get back to school, you should have your parents look into online high school for you.  In my state, it is a FREE K-12 program - your high school might be able to help you get enrolled.  

As far as some first steps that you can start on your own, I have always had the most success when I set ONE GOAL AT A TIME.  For example, I might say, "I want to walk around the block alone".  You may have to start with walking up one or two houses and then come back.  It may take you a week to get to the end of your street - but you just take those little steps.  HOWEVER - it really is best to see a doc first so that you have the tools necessary in case you DO have a panic attack.  

Please remember, you are NOT ALONE!!!  There are LOTS of people like us out there - we just tend to suffer silently.  I always joke with my husband that I would love to start a local support group for people with panic attacks and agoraphobia, but we would all just fight about whose house to have it at ;P.  I feel bad because you are SO YOUNG - NO ONE should have to deal with this disorder, but it seems especially unfair in your case when you should be at the most happy and carefree time in your life.  Hopefully you can see a big change with the right doctor, therapist, medications, and educational setting.

Please check back in - you can message me through this site anytime, as well.  

Good Luck & God Bless
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OH - one trick I have for you to help you actually GET INTO your car - it sounds weird, but it can help you as a temporary first step...

Put on your headphones, wrap up in a blanket, crawl into the back seat, and stay in your little cocoon until you get to your destination.

I had to do this when I first started having my panic attacks just to ride to the psychiatrist with my mother.  It is NOT a healthy coping mechanism, but it does get you where you need to go until you can get the RIGHT tools!!
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3183328_tn?1351187117
Thank you so much for the response, I really appreciate it! I was thinking about an online school but I know my parents don't want that for me. I don't want that for me, I want normal high school. But I haven't gone to a normal school since march 2011. All this is very hard for me. And I'll try the blanket in the car thing! I know I need to get farther with this, cause everyone's getting tired of it, you know? And no one deserves to be put through what I'm going through. My mom has enough stress on her own. I've had many appointments set up to go to a therapist but every time I'd try to go I would just go back in the house. And I started setting little goals about a month ago, and I'd make it out to the big street out of my neighborhood and I even got up to the first crosswalk, but I can't cross the street. I'd press the button to cross and it tells me to go and I just go back home. I hate it. I wanna have fun being a teenager, and I don't wanna be like this forever. Oh and almost two years ago I was diagnosed as bipolar and was prescribed Prozac,when I never even wanted to be home, but I never took it and I eventually told myself I got better, and then this all happens to me. And I've always been afraid of taking antidepressants cause aren't they hard to get off of? I know they'd help me alot, but I don't know. People tell me I don't need it and that I'll be taking the easy way out and I won't be taking care of it on my own. And I honestly have tried to do it all on my own but I don't think I'm getting myself anywhere.
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3183999_tn?1344649018
You need to know that medications are not the "easy way out" in situations like this - people with disorders like ours have chemical imbalances in the brain.  This is NOT something you can just "overcome".  Yes - there is WAY more to getting better than just medications, but they are definitely a necessary component for many people.  Antidepressants are not like the drugs people take to get high (generally) and aren't hard to get off of when the time is right (again, generally).  But for many people - myself included - these medications may be necessary for life to correct the chemical imbalance in my brain.  

This is true for so many people...people you would never GUESS are on psychiatric meds...normal people that you see in your day to day life!  Take my brother-in-law, for example.  He has paranoid schizophrenia...and he lives a VERY happy and productive life.  He is an amazing dad and such a hard worker.  This is possible because he gets a shot of Risperdal every two weeks (an anti-psychotic).  Before he was on his meds, he thought my sister's contacts were video-recording devices and that there were people in the attic monitoring everything he did.  

I know well-meaning people will say things like, "You can just get over this if you try hard enough" or "You KNOW there is nothing really to be scared of!" or - and this is the worst "Only weak people need psych meds or shrinks".  **rolling my eyes**  If those people only knew the strength that it takes to just WALK OUT THE DOOR some days, they would stop giving their UNEDUCATED "advice".  I hate that people who do not have to deal with what WE have to deal with can dismiss the importance of psychiatric medications!  If I had not gone on my antidepressants after the birth of my first child, I don't know what I might have done to myself - the post-partum depression and anxiety threatened to take me away from my baby.  Instead, I sought treatment and, even though I still have PLENTY of anxiety issues, I am a GREAT MOM!!!

You have definite goals:
1) You want to get back into school
2) You want to regain your mobility and independence
3) You want to get back to being a TEENAGER!  
I think you can definitely achieve all of these - but you have to get HELP in order to do so.  

Your first step has to be an appointment with a psychiatrist.  Tell them at the office that you are having so much anxiety/panic that you are having trouble just getting to the appointment - they may be able to recommend something you can do to get there (and use our cocoon plan!).  Getting a proper diagnosis from a psychiatrist is SO important!  From a layperson's perspective, it sounds like you have an anxiety disorder (which is may be part of your bipolar disorder).  An actual diagnosis will help the psychiatrist decide what medication to prescribe, what tools to have you begin working on, what talk/behavioral therapist to recommend, etc...

I just want to say again that you really should talk to your parents about online school until you can get back into your regular school.  One of the other benefits of the diagnosis by the doctor is that your parents may be able to put together a plan with your school to help you ease back in.  

Here is a link to the FREE K - 12 Public Online School site:
http://www.k12.com/schools-programs/online-public-schools

Please let us know if you make an appointment!  OH - and be sure to tell the receptionist how severe your symptoms are and that you are pretty much housebound and unable to attend school.  They will try to get you in quicker if they know the urgency of your situation.

~BLESSINGS~
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3183328_tn?1351187117
Well I told my mom about the online school thing and we looked at the k12 one and we think I should call my old teacher steve to let him know what's going on and to also let him know I definitely want to go back there, it's ofl, where I go twice a week, and Steve was the greatest teacher I have ever had.

I mean don't get me wrong, I have tried to put it in my head that this anxiety thing is all in my head, I put it there I did this to myself, I can get it out. But I honestly don't think I did this. One day it just happened and it kept happening. I know like if you go through a break up or something, you can overcome that sadness, it's temporary. But I've worked at this for so long and it hasn't left and it won't, because, like you said, it's not just in my head.

And with the therapist thing, I'm going to try to call this therapist my mom really would like me to see. I guess she helped my mom's friend alot and she's willing to help me, and I've had a couple appointments set up but I didn't go, so I'm going to call her first and explain everything so I don't have this appointment set up and I don't go again. I will try the cocoon thing with my mom and drive around for a little bit just to get myself comfortable in the car again. Cause I tried to help my mom clean the inside of the car and I freaked out.

I think my uncle is the person who got the whole, medication's the easy way out of things, you don't need it that's ridiculous. No one else in the family has any mental illness so you're fine, it's all in your head. And like yeah he's rude when it comes to these things, I know he cares but he's all wrong about it.

I really appreciate all your help and support with all this! It means the world to me, cause I tried to talk to other people about it, and they continued to say it's all fake and in your head.
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Avatar_f_tn
Ok here it goes. I'm 22 years old. i have loved my life since i was 16. i have had tons of friends i have lived a bunch of different places and had a bunch of different jobs. i had no anxiety. well 4 months ago i was in a situation that i was not very comfortable in a room with a bunch of people i didn't know talking about life. i then had my first panic attack my heart was beating fast and my whole body sweat at the same time. so i drove home as fast as possible. i then tried to live life without fear. i would go a few days at a time where i would be fine an then i would stay at home a few days. i felt like i just had minor depression. Well here is the day that has really ruined me. my buddy asked me to pick him up from the airport, The airport is 35 minutes from my house
all highway. i got half way there an started having a panic attack in my car!! (It was VERY scary for me.) so i took the next exit and turned around. i was still 20minutes from my house so the panic continued until i got home. Now i don't really leave my house. agoraphobia is harsh. If God came down an said to me "hey do you want all the money in the world ? Or
to be cured from your agoraphobia. i wouldn't think.twice.
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1211508_tn?1343083205
Very sorry to hear about that but I can TOTALLY relate.  Boy can I relate.  As far as that decision of all the $$ in the world vs. no phobias....no brainer.  I feel the same way you do about that.  
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Avatar_m_tn
hi i have a fear about going out which i have had 4 about 10years now .  my sleep patterns are all over the place  all the time. do anyone on here ever take sleeping tablets to help you cope? which ones do you take and how long have you been on them?? can anyone help me plzz
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1211508_tn?1343083205
yes.  something like valium or klonopin would be best in my opinion.  ask your dr.  they help calm you down and help you sleep.  most of our sleep problems stem from our anxieties since we are both phobic people.  the klonopin has 2 benefits--it's a sedative/tranquilizer (which directly helps you sleep) and it relaxes us, and with less anxiety you will be more likely to get better sleep.  

good luck!  
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