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Avatar universal

Agoraphobia and housebound

This is something I have been interested in discussing on this forum.  I'm just wondering how many of us are agoraphobic and to what extent.  I know that I am and fight it all the time but make sure that I do leave my home most days.   I have a very dear friend who hasn't left her home in almost 7 years.  She has had all kinds of therapy and has tried SSRIs and other meds but is now VERY meds phobic and even with the CBT she finally gave up and just stays home.  I'm wondering if there are others on this forum who are like her or are the majority like me.  I wish there was something I can do to help her but she is just plain scared to leave her house.  She has tried on occasion and has had some success but very minimal and therefore doesn't leave home.  We don't even discuss it that much anymore.  Our discussions are about everything but...  I have to say that she is a perfect example of someone who would benefit from more CBT and medication because she definitely doesn't have any depression, she just has GAD with panic.  I would love to know who on this board has agoraphobia and if they have been housebound or are still housebound and how they are dealing with it.  
100 Responses
Avatar universal
Once upon a time I stayed close to home for the best part of ten years. If I went out it was a living hell. Had to hold onto railings and walls as I walked along. So scared was I out there. Most of those ten years was spent laying on a bed fighting my own mind. Just waiting for one day to end and another to begin. Truth was it was like one continous day with a little bit of darkness to break it up. Worse still, I didn't want to tell my own family exactly how bad I was. So they'd say ' would you go here for me, or go there for me '. I went at times. But would suffer for days after. That's when I told my mum I was suffering from panic attacks and that going outside the house was near impossible. She didn't really know what to do or say. Why? Because she didn't understand panic attacks. It was always a battle over the years. Got myself back on track for while. Once I had that something to aim for. That came in the form of a woman. She was from Scotland. I am in Ireland. But she came over here first. Then I made the biggest trip of my life. Was like I was a new person. I made it to Scotland via trains, ferry and more trains. Things that I had been avoiding for years. But I told myself I had to do it. I wanted to do it come what may. I look back on Scotland as my short break from the hell I had been living. I was fine for about a year or so. Came back to Ireland after about two months. So easy to slip back into your old lifestyle all over again. That's about what happened. But this time I kept pushing myself out no matter what. Bad as it was most times.

Today I am fine. Well, as I write these words I am fine. But that took a stay in hospital, an xanax addiction, lot of therapy and feck knows how many people praying for me. I don't do the prayer stuff myself. Seems everybody else does it for me. Saves me time. ( LOL ) I'm enjoying getting back out and about though. That's for sure. The last scare was a big one. Weight dropped to under 6 stone when I decided that eating wasn't a good thing to do. Intelligence of an Irishman. ( LOL ) My mum thought I was a gonner for sure. Hence the hospital. Like having your thoughts reprogrammed. But I was one eager SOB and wanted to fight things. So where they said 2 months, I was back out in 1 month and doing things I hadn't done in years. And that's where you find me now.
Avatar universal
Thanks for responding.  I too, hid my panic and agoraphobia for many years.  It turns out I wasn't the only one in the family doing the same thing.  That stiff upper lip thing is really annoying isn't it. LOL   (I'm from an Scottish, English, Irish background.)  When you are younger it seems easier to keep it hidden and find ways to hid it or find ways to make it through the day without anyone knowing how hard it was for you.  Back when I was a kid, this stuff was never discussed and then years later, I found out my mother had GAD and my sister has it and I suspect my brother does too, but won't admit it.  He has isolated himself from anyone outside of immediate family.  It's interesting that it was a girl who got you through it at one point.  There usually is a point where you just get fed up and become determined that you are going to deal with it and have a life.  I'm afraid that my friend has too many people around her that will enable her so that she doesn't have to leave her home.  That could very easily be me if I caved to it but there are too many things that I want to do to let that happen completely.  I still don't do everything I want to do but I am and will work toward it.  You were very young to be housebound for ten years.  Let's hope you can keep on a great path going forward and with the determination you seem to have presently, that shouldn't be a problem.
Avatar universal
They don't call us the fighting Irish for nothing. Your friend got any hobbies? You see I found hobbies to suit my situation. Wood burning was a great one. Pyrography to give it its real name. Burning images onto wood. I also radio scanning. Listening to airways and the likes. Things to keep the mind occupied. Because it is only when we have nothing to do that the worst days fall upon us. Gardening is another good one. At least you make it out to the garden. Grows a few flowers from seed. You got to look after them until they grow. It takes your time up. That's what is needed. To take up those hours in the day in can seem endless. Lord knows I had many of them. The only thing I can suggest for you to help you friend is be sneaky in introducing her to a hobby. It might work. It will be a start. Those first steps may lead to bigger steps and better places.
Avatar universal
All great ideas, but she does have hobbies that keep her busy but that doesn't get her outside away from the house.  I'm just curious how many on this forum are like her or if there are more agoraphobics that are like you now and me.  She is happy most of the time and has people come and visit her, especially family.  She is in her 60s and feels that at her age she is not about to try again to get past this disorder.  She has been in and out of it for many years and this is the longest she has been housebound.  
Avatar universal
Hospital and new medication is not an option for her? For years I was only on xanax and they were doing nothing at all. New meds and a lot of determination gave me the kick up the rear I needed. I met people her age an older in the hospital I was in. She still has a life. A life she just has to want to find again. I seriously wish her all the best. You can send her my love and good auld Irish hug too. Tell I said ' never say never '. She can fight back. The Irish hug makes her an honory Irish person. And we don't know what it means to roll over and give up. And she is one of us now.
460185 tn?1326077772
I hope this doesn't come across as attention seeking - it's not.

It's interesting that you mentioned agoraphobia because along with anxiety and depression  I have been "hiding" the fact that I have agoraphobia as well.  Do you think that there is a connection or correlation between agoraphobia, anxiety and depression?  It sort of snuck up on me about six or seven years ago and I have "hidden" it from almost everybody, except my therapist.  Often, I miss out on a lot due to this fear of going out.  Don't know how it began or why.  Ironically, am also claustrophobic too.

Have never heard of a Native American/Canadian with agoraphobia - claustrophobia, yes.  (I am a Native person)

I hope you continue your discussion and what helped and what didn't help, if you don't mind me reading and asking questions.  I've missed out on so much but don't have the nerve to tell my family why I can't go to different events; basically, I lie to them and I don't like that.

wolf



Avatar universal
I want people to add their comments and ask questions...that is what this is all about.  I'm agoraphobic and claustrophobic.  It is really common to have a phobia with anxiety and to have multiple phobias, too.  Anxiety disorder is a very broad term.  I'm most interested in agoraphobia because of the different ways that I deal with it compared to my dear friend.  We don't live in the same country and yet we have this disorder that we deal with in very different ways.  Because I don't have an "in person" relationship with her, it makes it more difficult to say "Hey, let's go do this together."  I met her on another forum and although she formed friendships through that forum, it didn't help her with her own agoraphobia.  She actually left that forum before I did.  She got nothing out of it, but a few friends.  I would like to hear from as many people as possible about this to see if it can give me ideas to help her with this without being too intrusive in her privacy.  She is very sensitive to suggestions on how to make her life more full but on the other-hand, wishes she had a full life.  I really don't want to disclose too much about her because I don't think it is right, but I do want to hear from people who are agoraphobic and for how long they have been housebound or how they have managed to come out of it.  My friend knows my story and admires me for it, but it hasn't helped her in anyway.  We are different people and what I'm willing to do, is not what she would even consider doing.  As I said in a previous post, we don't even talk about it anymore other than for her to comment on how well she thinks I am doing.  Any suggestions I've given her, she just blows off as not possible.  She knows what she needs to do, she just can't bring herself to do it.  She's tried CBT, SSRIs, and is afraid of benzos...she has just given up that she will ever be able to leave her home.

I guess what I want to know is how many on this forum are agoraphobic and how are they coping with it.
480448 tn?1426948538
GREAT and VERY important topic...as one therapist I had told me a VERY VERY VERY large percentage of anxiety disorder sufferers (panic disorder especially) suffer from one degree of agoraphobia or another...whether very brief...or lasting decades.  I think THAT is one of the most difficult aspects of panic disorder that I have dealt with...and it often leaves me SUPER depressed as a result.  And, VERY angry with myself.

I will share my own story briefly.  I must do some wrist exercises first, b/c this is bound to be a long post for sure.  :0)

(Ok...well I really have to do some things around the house...but it WILL be a lengthy one).

I'm very excited to share my experiences with everyone....and to read about you all.

{{{{{wolfie}}}}}...I'm sure it wasn't easy to admit that....especially typing it out...it becomes much for "real" doesn't it?  I'm proud of you...way to go.

Oh, and barfer...I sincerely feel for your friend.  That is so sad...I wish she would have had more success with some form of treatment...and can understand her reluctance to try anything at this point...she prolly feels it's futile...that nothing has helped her before.  Very defeated feeling.

I'm glad she has a friend like you who can understand what she is going through...and is just willing to be her friend on HER terms without pushing her into doing something she is uncomfy doing....which is a common reaction of "friends" of agoraphobics....out of care and compassion of course.....they want to "make them better"...but YOU understand and are just offering the support she needs.  Darn, I wish I would have had a bud like you a few times in my life.

Be back shortly.  Everyone grab a snack...we might be in for the long haul with this one.

:0)
Avatar universal
Hurry up nursegirl, I can't stand the suspense!!

Sumi
480448 tn?1426948538
I cannot even believe this...I typed out a HUGE post...then when I hit submit....it told me I exceeded the charcter limit and my post disappeared!!!!!!

ARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!

Sorry folks....you'll have to wait till tomorrow...I just can't even think about re-typing all of that right now.

Grrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!
460185 tn?1326077772
It was very, very difficult to admit to being agoraphobic (along with being claustrophobic).  Like I said earlier, I wonder if it is part of being anxious and depressed.  The agoraphobia sort of crept up on me.  Now I feel like I've missed so much because of it and worse I have lied to keep people from knowing about it.  But I guess I'm out of the closet now.

wolfie
Avatar universal
Well done Lonewolf. You have now admitted it. Maybe that is your first steps. Who knows. By getting it out and sharing it with us here you may now feel you can share it with others too and get the right help you need to try and beat the condition. We are here to encourage you. Hope things can begin to swing for you now. Best pf luck.
Avatar universal
Hi lonewolf07,

Don't feel upset, it is all part of the anxiety disorder thing. Anxiety evolves and many people don't have just one disorder, sometimes there is an overlap of disorders, it is normal.

I am not sure how you define agoraphobia, is it when you are confined to the home, if so I don't have it. I think they have redefined agarophobia to mean afraid of certain places and situations, something like that.

Well I am scared of certain situations, like going for an interview. I have had it since my neck and jaw went into spasm since Oct last year, really bad and my blood pressure goes up and I feel I am going to stroke out. For others it might be the palpitations and they think , heart attack, and for others they think they just going to die, it is all part of a panic disorder.

Have you read books by Dr Claire Weekes , I think it is called Hope and Help for Your Nerves in the US. You could look through Amazon for the titles, the positive comments are truly amazing.

In the meantime, you should feel proud of coming out of the closet, It is the first step towards recovery. I wish I could feel less anxious during anxiety provoking situations. The anticipation fear paralyses me from moving forward towards full recovery. The symptoms of panic are just overwhelming
366811 tn?1217422672
Among my panic trials and tribulations, agoraphobia was not among them, thank God. However, one of the people in my "Power over Panic" support group -who later became a close friend, DID have it -the classic case, housebound. He could make it only as far as half way down the front walk -10 feet from the house. Today, this same guy is zipping back and forth across the country on his Harley. I can tell whenever he is within 30 seconds of my place... I'll call him "Ned."

Based on what I have read in this thread, and based on what I know about HIS experience, I want to toss something out to all of you for consideration. I really don't have a "theory" here -I'm just interested in how you guys react.

The sum and substance: "Ned" began to expand his boundaries when he had a good reason to do so. In his case, that reason was a pretty girl who lived up the street, and who came walking by one day and began to chat. One thing led to another, and Ned -married with 2 children- found himself in a full-blown sexual affair. "Janice" (who was single) really got his attention. Turns out, she, too, was on disability for a "mental" disorder. So, they had plenty of time together when Ned's wife went to work. Eventually, Ned was able to drive within a few miles of his place and, ultimately, was able to drive himself to the "Power over Panic" meetings. Finally, he bought his "bike," the fulfilment of a life-long dream. Oddly, perhaps, he was able to go places on the Harley that he could not go -as comfortably- in his car. In time, he was so happy to have regained his freedom that Janice became less important to him. And in time, Ned and his wife had a parting of the ways. Ultimately, in a full expression of his freedom, he moved far away from his home. Ned got well. Janice did not.

At first blush, it might seem as though Ned was a pretty selfish guy, but such was not the case. He was an excellent Dad and utterly trustworthy and reliable -whatever he said he would do -he WOULD do. As you might imagine, there were serious marital issues that framed a kind of backdrop for his disorder. But Ned could not see, while in the midst of his marriage- how these issues played into his anxiety and panic and took them to be just part of the "normal" marital scenario.

I am NOT saying that therefore, marital problems cause agoraphobia. Everyone's mileage will vary. What I AM considering is the possibility that breaking free of the boundaries may become possible if and when a deep need may be met by so doing -or we believe that such may be the case.

Now I'll refer to my own situation. While I was not house bound, I was one of the "landed gentry" who could not fly. Until, one day, my group of neighborhood friends all decided to fly to the Virgin Islands together on a holiday. The prospect of this shared experience was so exciting to me that the anticipation of that experience outweighed the fear of flying. All those folks knew about my problem and cheered me on when I said, "count me in." The plane trip -the entire experience- was great. I was also in therapy at the time, and the trip became a subject of discussion. It is possible that, had the trip been proposed a year earlier, I might not have joined -we'll never know. But what seemed assured was that the high expectation of shared good times became more important than the "safety" of not flying. I have flown ever since.

So, I put it to you: is there any possibility that some perceived reward or fulfilment of need may be powerful enough to move you across the line? If so, what? Is this just something that would work for some, but not for others? Your thoughts?
Avatar universal
Don't you love this topic!?  How interesting that two men, so far, on this issue have mentioned the influence of a woman as the catalyst to getting out of their agoraphobia. LOL  (I couldn't resist mentioning it!)

The fact remains, that in most cases there is a turning point in which you stop and say "enough" I'm going to do everything in my power to move forward.  Basically, people with agoraphobia have defined boundaries.  I knew someone who would not leave her bedroom at first and then after years of therapy, was able to fly to Europe for a vacation.  I still have driving boundaries.  I live in the downtown area of a major city and where some people are afraid of driving in the city, I don't like to drive outside of the city and on the highways.  I'm OK, sort of, as a passenger, but forget it as the driver.  I was housebound for a very short period of time and with medication and sheer determination (I'm a stubborn little nut which helped in this case) I walked out of my house and part way down the street and did that every day until I could go for walks all over the city.  It was the same thing with driving, I started slowly and eventually I was able to drive all over the city and I even drove and can drive if I really put my mind to it, to my daughter's place which is outside of the city and that takes almost twice as long because I still can't drive on the highway.  I will do almost anything for my children and that was my catalyst.  My husband had a very demanding job and so I couldn't depend on him to help with day to day things and one of my children is mentally and physically disabled, plus she is epileptic, so you either push yourself to get better or you fall down that pit and never get out.  I had enormous motivation to get out of that pit.  I've always had anxiety and panic issues all my life which I kept hidden until I couldn't anymore, but the agoraphobia was something that reared it's ugly head when I was premenopausal.  As I've said in the past they shouldn't call it menopause, it should be called mental pause.  Agoraphobia is something I am still fighting but it is not as big an issue as it was.  

JS, as you said and I quote:     is there any possibility that some perceived reward or fulfilment of need may be powerful enough to move you across the line? If so, what? Is this just something that would work for some, but not for others? Your thoughts?

There is the rub...I was motivated enough to cross the line and have had to many times, but what about people like my friend?  Why can't she be motivated to cross that line?  Is it because she has so many people who love her around her and are in actual fact, stifling her with kindness, basically enabling her to not get out of her home or is it just that one gets tired of always battling the inner demons and would rather stay home and paint or clean or do projects to avoid what is happening in the real world.

JS, when I was a kid, I loved to fly and thought I would, by this time in my life, have been all over the world.  Ever since my daughter was little, I have not liked to fly.  She seizured after flying for her first time and that has a lot to do with how I feel about flying now.  I didn't need a therapist to figure that one out.  My experiences with flying since my daughter's first flight have all been related to bad experiences.  I had to fly out to see my father when his wife died and moved him here after that.  All my experiences with flying have been unhappy family situations and so my feelings about flying have definitely been coloured over the years.  My psychiatrist was trying to get me to take a plane ride, just for pleasure...JUST FOR PLEASURE?!?!...That was one part of my therapy I did not do....LOL  Also, I am claustrophobic and the way they pack people in the planes now a days, sure doesn't help with that issue.

This a very important topic to me.  I hope I get more insight from all of you agoraphobics out there.  Thanks to all of you that have responded so far.

480448 tn?1426948538
Ok, let's try this again.

First, I will share with you what *I* know about agoraphobia.  Once I found out what I was suffering from (and that it was actually part of my disorder)...I wanted to learn all about it...so I dove into books and spent MANY a therapy sessions simply discussing that...I asked a million questions.

Before I start babbling..there is a book I would personally HIGHLY recommend for anyone with agoraphobia...it's called "Helping your Loved One Overcome Agoraphobia" by Karen William.  It is meant for the loved ones...but *I* got a LOT out of it...b/c I related so much to it....I felt as if *I* could have written it myself....and it made me feel not so alone.  After I read it (in mere hours)....I passed it around among my family members.  Great book.

I learned that agoraphobia technically means "fear of the marketplace/open places"...but what it boils down to is extreme avoidant behavior due to tha anticipatory anxiety of having a panic attack (or severe anxiety in GAD and other disorders).  My therapist told me that the percentage of anxiety disorder patients that have suffered from one level of agoraphobia or another is ASTOUNDING.  Agoraphobia is ESPECIALLY prevalent in panic disorder.  It usually starts vaguely...often even un-noticed by the sufferer.  I gave some examples before...but for instance, if a person has their first major devastating panic disorder in a grocery store....all of a sudden, that person finds it impossible to return there....because they have convinced themselves it will happen again if they go back there. In our minds, we relate the PA TO the location.  Agoraphobia isn't always related to locations either...it can be related to situations (ie...another poster mentioned an interview)...or even a time of the day....a person has a very bad PA at bedtime...and before you know it...the person relates the attack TO that time of day (and we see a lot of posts like that).  Obviously, though...with THAT kind of scenario...we can't actually AVOID a timeframe, so instead we just FILL ourselves with an unbelievable amt of anticipatory anxiety.

Sooo, the grocery store situation.  The person starts to avoid going there.  Next, that person has a PA at the library...so they stop going there as well.  This kind of thing balloons until basically the "safe zone" (which most people's "safe place" is their home) becomes smaller and smaller and smaller.  Like JS said...and I have experienced in talking with fellow PD'ers....some people cannot even go to their mailbox it is so severe.  The more we avoid, the worse it becomes.  I liken it almost to a PTSD scenario.  Certainly if I was present during a violent bank robbery...I would have a VERY hard time going back to that bank.  Same thing with panic attack induced agoraphobia, only the "danger" is perceived, not actual.

Another BIG component of agoraphobia is anticipatory anxiety.  This is where we literally make ourselves SICK with worry and anxiety before something we have to do.  Some things are unavoidable.  Example--One HAS to go to the doctor...but yet...as soon as the appt is made...the worry starts.  We "what if" ourselves into a frenzy..."What IF I get stuck in traffic and have a PA?"...."What IF my car breaks down and I have a panic attack?"..."What IF I get stuck in the elevator at the medical office building and have a PA?".  And so the cycle goes...the more we "what if"...the more anxious we become...and of course the anticipatory anxiety gets worse the closer the outing gets.  A LOT of people with agoraphobia cancel plans at the last minute...often making excuses because they are too embarassed to admit and to try to explain that they are afraid to basically leave their home.  They are embarassed by it because it is hard to explain to someone without an anxiety disorder...and because we can rationally tell ourselves that there IS no real reason to be afraid.  That's also when we often add depression to our laundry list of suffering.  We feel SO guilty for disappointing our family and friends who we let down by cancelling.  We feel inadequate that we can't even go to the gas station to fill our car.  Our loved ones most likely are unaware of the REAL reason behind our cancelling events...and therefore they assume we are being rude, irresponsible, etc etc.  So, that adds even more stress.  I personally am the most depressed when I am suffering with bad agoraphobia.  Like I said...it is an awful cycle...and it is hard to break.  Basically...like someone who fell off a horse...you have to get back on....and slowly start increasing that "safe zone"...as hard as it may be.

THAT is where CBT is very helpful.  A lot of therapists who do CBT actually do outings....starting small...and getting more intense.  I had a friend who was in CBT...her first outing involved her therapist picking her up in the car and driving WITH the patient as a passenger a mile down the road.  Her last session a year later....my friend was driving herself in her own vehicle on routes especially chosen with challenges...bridges, traffic, tunnels, etc.....to meet the therapist at least 60 miles away (and actually that last session included a ride on a subway as well...as that was a big fear for her).  But, she made progress....she came a LONG way.  

I will get into my own personal experiences with agoraphobia shortly....and to relate to what I just said...my most recent struggle involved a nasty PA in the middle of traffic on a busy highway.  That route is STILL incredibly hard for me to face..but I make myself do it at least once a month...even if I do not HAVE to go into town.

So...this is PART I of MY feelings about agoraphobia.  Like so many of you...I have suffered with it at various different degrees...but also, I have competely overcome it on 2 seperate occasions...working on my third.

I also wanted to address something barfer said about phobias.  That is another very common aspect of any anxiety disorder.  Most of us have one, if not several phobias...some very severe...others just sort of fleeting.  It's all part of the anxiety disorder...the cycle...the classic "what iffing"...basically a cruddy package deal of sorts.  My OWN personal phobias are....travel phobia (again a form of agoraphobia...nothing scarier for an agoraphobic to go REALLY far away from our "safe place".)...."poopy pants phobia" (self explanatory..I don't think I'll get too much into that right now...lol)...and driving phobia (again.....part of the agoraphobia).  But....as we've seen sooo often here....some of the more common phobias that anxiety sufferers deal with are health phobias, death phobias, exercise phobias, fear of vomiting, fear of going crazy, flying, driving, tunnels, bridges (anywhere we feel there is no easy "escape").

More to come...stay tuned!  Thanks for reading this monstrous post!  :0)
Avatar universal
I think we all know what agoraphobia is now and most of us who have responded have or know of someone who has experienced it.  Bottom line, we are not comfortable outside of our comfort zone.  What I'm curious about is are most of the people on this forum who have agoraphobia housebound or they able to get out and about?  Does this forum reach those who are completely housebound and are their needs being met through this forum?  It seems to me that the people who do most of the posting are, in some way, getting out or trying to get a handle on it.  Is there a huge percentage of agoraphobics hiding or lurking and not posting?  Is there a large population of agoraphobics who are so bad that they can't support themselves and are homeless and certainly wouldn't have a computer to get support?  I wonder how deeply this goes.  I certainly don't know what my friend would have done without the financial support that her family has provided.  What about those who don't have financial support?  How can they be reached.  Remember, I started this post with mentioning my friend who has had all the support, financial, therapy, medication, etc. and is still sitting in her home seven years later with no way (in her mind) to get out.  As JS said, why do some make it and others don't?  What is the difference between her and me?  I absolutely hate going to restaurants and travel is not my favourite thing either, but I'm going to Florida in a couple of weeks and on the way back I am spending 3 days in Savannah, which is some place I have wanted to see ever since I read the book Midnight In The Garden Of Eden (that was about 15 years ago).  I have found that if I organized going out to restaurants with my friends, then it is a way of forcing me to do it, after all, I organized it!  But back to my friend, how do you help someone who wants help but doesn't want help because of fear and she finds it intrusive?  Don't forget my other question about the members of this forum, are they lurking or are they simply not here and if they are here, are they getting support?
503727 tn?1210439110
i suffer fom panic attacks and agoraphobia developed and i have been suffering bad for about 3 months. i can no longer go to grocery stores, walmarts, malls, anywhere. my only way out is if im with someone and i cant stand it. i want my life back. i just dont understand it. i walk into any of these places without having anything on my mind and then bam a panic attack starts and i get out as soon as i can. i get so aggravated and emotional at myself. i want to overcome this. im not going to let this horrible thing ruin my quality of life.
Avatar universal
I know exactly how you feel and you will overcome this because you have the deep desire to do it.  Try sticking to going to one place for a time until you get to the point where it becomes common-place for you.  Do it everyday.  With me it was the grocery store, I had a panic attack there one day while in the line-up and managed to get out of the store, eventually, with all my groceries.  This was such a disturbing situation for me because I knew I had to shop for groceries for the family and needed to make sure that I could do it...So, everyday after that panic attack, I went back to the same store and the first day all I bought was one item and went through the cash line.  I went back to that store every day until it got to the point that it no longer became a problem for me.  You can do this with each situation and after you do it with the one store, it becomes easier for the others.  You probably won't have to go through the whole process with each store after doing it with the grocery store, maybe for the walmart because it is a really busy one but, honestly, after a while, you will be able to do it.  So what if you have a panic attack for the first few times, it won't kill you and you will feel a sense of accomplishment that you were able to do it no matter how hard it was.  As I always say, don't forget to reward yourself for your success, either.  Buy yourself some bubble bath or in my case a cinnamon bun for doing something that is very hard for you.

Thank you for responding to this posting...I really think it is important for all agoraphobics to know that there are others struggling just like them/us and that there can be ways out of being housebound.  Do you feel this forum is helping you with this problem and if not, what do you think would help you get through this rough spot in your life?
Avatar universal
This forum reaches out to many a person Barfer. You just have to view this and many other topics to see that. If you are housebound and use the net and you find somewhere like this, it is amazing. Just to be able to unleash and get so much off your chest. You don't know the people will read your posts. So you have no worries. Like you might have if you were to have to write a letter to someone you might meet the next day. Here it is like a great freedom to let go of whatever you atr holding onto within you. Then to see others have similar problems too. Yes you feel sorry for them. Because you know how bad it is. But you also see you are not the only one. So topics like this do help people in such a massive way.

480448 tn?1426948538
Working through agoraphobia.  The things that worked for me are similar to what barfer said in her post.  You start small and work bigger and bigger.

Example, the grocery store again...while in the midst of a very agoraphobic time, I can get there, but it's like an Olympic friggin marathon for me....and I even go as far as to plan ahead very methodically...trying to minimize my time in the store.  You all may laugh at this...b/c I kind of find it funny myself...but I'll make a 3-tiered grocery list...starting with the ABSOLUTE must-have items....like milk, diapers, etc...then the second tier will include pretty important stuff....and the third will be stuff that would be good to have, but also easily skipped if I'm having a rough go of things.

That multi-tiered list has worked well for me...b/c it keeps me focused, and if I DO end up with an issue...at least I have gotten the most important things.  Plus, it is almost a way for me to gauge my success, in a way.  There will be days where I got through not only the ENTIRE list, but also manage to pick up things that were NOT on the list whatsoever.  I felt a HUGE sense of accomplishment on those days.

That's another thing...and not to sound like a broken record b/c I say it a lot...but EVERY accomplishment is to be celebrated when trying to overcome agoraphobia.  Instead, a lot of times...we find ourselves putting onesself down.....like "OMG, how pathetic, I didn't get past the milk on the list." instead of realizing what a huge feat that was to get there, go in, get the milk and leave.  EVERY step is vital, no matter if it is one pint of milk at the store or a round-the-world trip in an air balloon.

Also, some tips for these outings.  First, the more exposure to outings, the better.  So instead of doing one bigger one once a month...try smaller ones more frequently.  When I'm in the throws of agoraphobia, I REALLY try to force myself to go out almost every day, even if it is literally to the bottom of my driveway and back.  One day I'd go to the post office, the next day, the gas station, then the grocery store, etc.  I tried to pick places that would be low maintenence, sort of "in and out" places.  Choose a less busy time of the day to go...and YOUR good time of the day...some people have great mornings, some evenings.  Try to start the outings at the "good" times and then switch it up later on.  

If there were days that my anticipatory anxiety was thru the roof, I gave myself a pass.  It's OK to do that...not every day will be a good day.  There is no sense ruminating about it....just accept that these are big challenges...and just like a physical illness...there will be days with limitations.  We are SO hard on ourselves.

Also....try to work on DEALING with a PA when it strikes....trying to sort of ride it out as long as possible...gradually increasing the time we can withstand it.  If we can fight the urge to flee, that is a huge step in beating it.  Even minimizing the reaction time from PA to fleeing is good.  If you are in the store yet again and panic hits...walk around, breathe....maybe even set your items aside and walk outside for some air.  Keep in mind that the PA will NOT hurt you...it is just emotions.  ALSO....one thing we all worry about is what other people are thinking...and you know what?  Unless you are screaming on top of your lungs or rolling around on the floor...NO ONE has a clue but US.  *Our* feelings are over sensitized...not everyone else's.  I know in theory it all sounds great...but in the middle of a PA...it IS hard not to just get the heck out NOW.  The first few times you "ride it out", you may only last 30 seconds...but each time gets easier and easier until you actually get to the point where you do NOT have to flee....when you get there...you are REALLY breaking that fleeing/agoraphobic/avoidance cycle.

Gradually build up the outings to include places slightly farther away...bascially continue to challenge yourself.  Sometimes you don't get to the challenge yourself point for quote a while.  That is OKAY.  There is no time line that needs to be followed.

My last tip for now...is TRY to be honest with as MANY people as you can....not only for support, but also so you do not have to make up excuses as to why you can't attend functions, etc.  Learn that it is okay to say "NO".  We always accept invites thinking just MAYBE we'll be okay to go that day...hoping we will...then the day gets closer and it's impossible for us.  Then you get into the guilt feelings....which only serves to make yourself feel worse.  Don't push yourself too quickly.....but don't always give in to the fear either.  If you have planned a short and simple outing and are finding the anticipatory anxiety....switch things up a bit...ask for someone to go with you....but YOU be the one to drive.  The more we make goals for ourselves and continually break them...the more WE feel defeated and keep that cycle going.  It's a vicious one for sure.

So...basically...through all of this...be kind to yourself.  It's a rough ride...it's hard to face...but it's not impossible.  Support from a group like this is priceless...where we can all share our own tips and strategies.  Pat yourself on the back EVERY time you reach a goal.  It's SO very important.
412969 tn?1224334248
im going to post this now but will reply with a more indepth one later, basiclly im a 27 year old 5 motnh pregnant woman with agoraphobia, panic attacks gad and severe depression, because of the pregnancy im off most my meds so ive been housebound more lately than not... more to come=)
Avatar universal
Great to hear from you.  I look forward to seeing what more you have to say in your next post.  

Now, where are all the other agoraphobics on this forum.  I want to hear from everyone housebound or not and let's share information and insight.  Remember I have a friend who has been housebound for a very long time and has tried all treatments...I would love to know of a way to help her find a way out of this.  My experiences haven't encouraged her at all.  In fact, I think it has saddened her a little to see that I can do it but she can't.  Remember, she is in her 60s and has been in and out of being housebound, this being the longest time.    
480448 tn?1426948538
It's SUCH a catch 22...because she desperately needs at least therapy (if she doesn't want to go the med route)...but an agoraphobia has obviously a hard time leaving to go TO therapy.  She needs to do SOMETHING, IMO...she isn't likely going to get better without SOME kind of intervention.

How about looking into resources...there are sometimes therapists who will start therapy either in the pt.'s home...or via telephone?  I'm sure they aren't super easy to find...but maybe you could consult with some area psychiatrists and ask about it?

I knew someone on another forum who started CBT that way...she just couldn't physically go TO to therapy.  It was a long hard struggle...but she at least got to the point where she was being driven to her appts after a while.

So very sad...I feel for your friend.  
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