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Stepping into an overcrowded lift;

Waiting in line for tickets to your favourite show;

Running to board a packed subway at the peak rush hour;

These situations might be ordinary for you or anyone who does not have agoraphobia. But for an agoraphobic individual, these simple situations might be enough to develop severe anxiety, widespread panic, and complete disorientation. Supporting such an individual can be difficult, especially if you are not entirely sure about what agoraphobia truly is. As a complicated phobia with little public awareness, agoraphobia is not linked to one element only. While many wrongly assume it is the fear of open spaces, the disorder is much more complex.

For many fighting agoraphobia, the fear does not only include feelings of anxiety or nervousness. It is, in fact, the panic of being stuck in a situation which is difficult to escape. It can make one feel trapped and helpless with no way out. As a result, such individuals commonly avoid public places and may confine themselves to their homes, restricting them from enjoying life.

Fortunately, getting out of an agoraphobic lifestyle through therapy and medication is possible. Many rehabs are working to help such people contain their problems and consequent impacts on their health, well-being, and overall quality of life. These centres’ highly qualified psychiatrists, therapists, and psychologists offer comprehensive and tailored treatment programs. These programs aim to alleviate the symptoms and assist the patients in returning to the fulfilling lives they deserve.

Keep reading to understand more about this disorder and learn how to help someone with agoraphobia in the best way possible.

While the clear signs of symptoms of agoraphobia may differ from one person to another, depending on their specific triggers, some common ones include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of detachment from others
  • Becoming dependent on others in public places
  • Having irrational feelings of severe fear and anxiety of being outside the home
  • Avoiding every situation that provokes these irrational fears
  • Becoming completely housebound
  • Developing feelings of panic on exposure to a perceived threatening situation

If someone you know has been diagnosed with agoraphobia, their life can quickly become much more challenging. You may be tempted to help them fight this debilitating mental disorder; however, remember that you cannot force them to seek help. However, it is still possible to support them with simple everyday activities outlined below:

Educate Yourself

It is common for many to misunderstand agoraphobia and the challenges it brings to a person’s life. Surprisingly, many are not even aware that this disorder exists. Given this general lack of awareness, the best way you can help an agoraphobic is by educating yourself about the illness they are struggling with. Doing so will help you understand how the disorder affects your loved one’s daily life, what triggers it, and the kind of physical and mental challenges it imposes on them.

With the proper information about agoraphobia, you can gain a sense of perspective that enables you to be more understanding and empathetic towards your dear one. Consequently, they may start feeling safe around you and listen to your advice.

Practice Patience

Agoraphobia can be a traumatic and overwhelming disorder, especially if someone believes they have to bear the burden alone. While it’s not possible to share this burden or experience what your loved one is going through,  you can show support and make them realise that you are with them. Sometimes, the attacks may become too complicated or unbearable; however, remember that your loved one is not in control of them. So you have to be the bigger person and practice patience and show support to facilitate recovery for them.

Take it Slow

People with agoraphobia commonly develop avoidant behaviours due to their traumatic past experiences. They are well aware of what triggers an attack for them and will do everything in their power to avoid them. At the same time, facing these situations and triggers that once used to cause them an immense amount of emotional stress is critical to overcoming the fear associated with them. While you can help your loved ones conquer their fears, take it slow and never pressure them into situations they are unprepared for. For some, stepping out of the house and basking in the sun for five minutes can be a massive accomplishment. Be there to support them and look for signs showing they are ready to take the next step.

Celebrate their Accomplishments

No matter how small their accomplishment is, always celebrate every victory your agoraphobic loved one achieves and every milestone they conquer. Celebrating these small wins serves as positive reinforcement that motivates your loved ones to push themselves even further. Depending on the type of achievement, you may bring them something special, take them out for a nice dinner, or cook one of their favourite meals at home.

Check on them Regularly

Be it a simple text message, a phone call, or a personal visit, keep checking on your loved one regularly. This simple habit can go a long way in their recovery and help them understand that they have someone who genuinely cares for them and their recovery.

Help them Find Support

In addition to reinforcing self-help for agoraphobia, support your loved ones to seek professional help. Multiple therapies and rehabilitation centres actively provide services for managing this psychiatric illness. Many of these centres also deal with all co-existing mental health issues for a wholesome recovery.

Most rehabilitation centres in the UK that assist agoraphobics use a combination of pharmaceutical and behavioural therapies to support recovery. This blend of treatments has proven to be the best solution for curing agoraphobia and preventing relapses. Some commonly used behavioural therapies in this respect include the following:

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

This type of rehabilitation therapy uses a concise supportive analysis to pay special attention to the cultural roles and interpersonal relationships. It helps clients identify and learn healthy tools to address the problems they are struggling with that commonly lead to episodes of agoraphobia. Interpersonal therapy also helps clients uncover their relationship shortcomings, unresolved griefs, and role changes, which can fuel their underlying anxiety disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a popular treatment that helps alter maladaptive thinking patterns and allows patients to modify their behaviours positively. In this way, this therapy aids them in replacing their unconstructive coping skills with healthier ones.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

This version of behavioural therapy combines the principles of CBT and IPT for better emotional regulation. It also includes elements of mindful awareness and stress management for better recovery.

Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT)

As a type of CBT, acceptance and commitment therapy implements behaviour-altering strategies that bring patients more mental and emotional flexibility.

Support Groups

It is common for a rehab centre to connect its clients with support groups to speed up the process of recovery. An agoraphobia support group UK can be the best place to connect with peers with similar situations, discuss common grounds, and gain valuable insights about recovery. These support groups also serve as an essential pillar of strength after completing treatment at a rehab to practice long-term recovery and prevent relapses.

Additional Therapies

In addition to the behavioural therapies mentioned above, many treatment programs incorporate family therapy, art therapy, music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness meditation for a simultaneous holistic recovery.

Struggling with agoraphobia can be highly frustrating as it takes an individual’s existence away. With a constant fear of panic attacks, such people cannot go outside and enjoy their lives like ordinary people. However, remember that it is possible to overcome this fear, no matter if it seems endless to you. Your loved one can begin to live again with proper therapy. Help your loved one heal by contacting a rehab centre and booking an appointment as soon as possible.

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