Agoraphobia is a fear of situations and places where the person might be overcome with panic symptoms. They may feel overwhelmed and helpless or feel some sort of embarrassment. This is a complex mental health disorder that is considered to be an anxiety disorder. This can present itself in a number of different ways.
Agoaphobia & Current Pandemic Related Social Distancing Orders
A Raleigh based psychiatrist discusses what agoraphobia is, what causes it, and which treatments and interventions help. Also, what worsens the symptoms. Although the recent stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic may appear at first to be an ideal situation. For people who are afraid to leave their own homes, this is really far from the truth. According to medical research studies warns mental health specialists.
How Agoraphobia Can Develop According to Mental Health Experts
Often, agoraphobia develops after a person suffers from one or more panic attacks. As a result, the person may develop severe fears about becoming entrapped or otherwise stuck in a helpless position. These fears of what may happen can result in the person avoiding any of the circumstances. Also, places or situations known to bring on more fear with overwhelming panic symptoms. Sometimes, a person is so enveloped by their anxieties that they develop an intense fear leaving home. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 cases of agoraphobia every year in the U.S. This makes this mental health problem a more common one than most would think. A professional psychiatric evaluation can diagnose signs/symptoms of agoraphobia.
Why Social Distancing & Stay-At-Home Orders May Worsen Agoraphobia
To understand why the pandemic rules requiring stay-at-home order compliance and avoiding others through social distancing can actually cause agoraphobia symptoms to worsen we must first understand how agoraphobia is usually treated. The treatments typically include ongoing talk therapy, controlled exposure to unrealistic fears and sometimes medication to control underlying symptoms like anxiety, depression and mood imbalances. This form of treatment works because the fears that someone afflicted with agoraphobia have are commonly unrealistic.
For example, someone may fear crowds today because they had a bad experience when in a crowded situation sometime in their past. A child who is lost in a shopping mall or amusement park can then experience overwhelming panic. Especially when they realize that they don’t know where their parents are or know any of the people swarming around them now. A psychiatrist and/or psychologist will carefully prepare the person to gradually go outside their comfort zone by going places where there are a lot of people when the situation is safe and stable.
Since the person is now an adult, they will have access to cell phones and contact people to call if needed. This can often be quite effective, as the person realizes that they are not kids anymore and are now able to handle such a situation on their own.
The Pandemic Is a Real Crisis that Can Be Dangerous
A seasoned psychiatrist, with a practice in the Briar Creek region in North Carolina, cautions that coaxing an agoraphobic client to dismiss their fears of going outside into a crowd during this pandemic can do more harm. This is because the pandemic poses real risks and can result in people becoming very ill if they contract the virus from someone else when out in public. Understandably, if an agoraphobic does become ill, they could then lose any traction forward towards healing that they have worked so hard to overcome through therapy and hard work. This can result in an exacerbation of anxiety and the related panic symptoms that may set the person back.
There Are Steps to Take to Manage Agoraphobic Symptoms Now
Even if the health crisis seems dire at the present time, there are some helpful and practical steps and treatments that someone with agoraphobia can take to better manage their chronic agoraphobic symptoms even now during this pandemic. Some terrific types of effective agoraphobic treatment during a pandemic could include:
- Using helpful coping measures to decrease anxiety
- Keeping in contact with a qualified mental health therapist by phone, online or via TelePsychiatry appointments on a regular basis
- Eating a healthy & nutritious diet
- Taking steps to get proper sleep
- Getting enough exercise
- Taking medications as ordered
- Doing things that make the person feel safe and secure
- Keeping in contact with others through phone or online
- Trying to maintain a regular daily routine
- Reaching out for help if in a crisis situation