Fear of Leaving the House - Understanding Agoraphobia

Fear of leaving the house.
4 steps to getting past a fear of leaving the house. Photo © Microsoft

If you have a fear of leaving your house, it is probable that you have an intense fear of being in certain situations in which escape is difficult or potentially embarrassing, or where help is not readily available. More specifically, the focus is on the fear of having a panic attack in such situations.

Agoraphobia

A fear of leaving the house is associated with agoraphobia, though not all people with this disorder have this concern.

Agoraphobia can occur on its own, but is more commonly a complication of panic disorder.

You do not need to be homebound to be diagnosed with agoraphobia. Agoraphobia can cause a panic response in an array of situations, including traveling by car, train, plane or bus; being in an elevator, crowd, large store, or confined area; being on a bridge or standing in a line. The fear associated with agoraphobia is so intense that a person will usually go to great lengths to avoid the feared situations. At the most extreme cases, agoraphobia can develop into a fear of leaving one’s house altogether. One’s home becomes his or her “safe zone.”

How Can I Get Over My Fear of Leaving the House?

1. Get Professional Help

Being homebound is disabling. But, you can find significant relief with treatment. The sooner treatment begins after the onset of agoraphobia, the more quickly symptom reduction or elimination will be realized.

However, even those with long-term symptoms will generally experience improvement with treatment, and most will regain the freedom to resume many of the activities they once enjoyed.

2. Learn and Practice Relaxation Techniques

Your fear of leaving the house is fed by anxiety. By leaning and practicing relaxation techniques, you will be able to reduce the level of your anxiety and panic attacks.

You may even be able to defuse an attack in the making. Some popular relaxation mechanisms include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), yoga, mindfulness meditation, and visualization. These skills are generally easy to learn and can be practiced for short durations of time to effectively reduce anxiety. 

3. Keep Stress in Check

Stress and anxiety seem to go hand in hand –- increase one and the other will follow. If you have developed agoraphobia and have a fear of leaving your house, it may be beneficial to your recovery to keep stress and anxiety in check. Relaxation techniques can of course help you manage stress and anxiety, but it may be most beneficial to deal with your stressors head on. Ask yourself what is causing you the most stress and create a plan to reduce anxiety by eliminating some stressors from your life. 

4. Learn and Practice Systematic Desensitization

Systematic desensitization usually starts with imagining yourself in a progression of fearful situations and using relaxation strategies that compete with anxiety.

Once you can successfully manage your anxiety while imagining fearful events, you can use the technique in real life situations. The goal of the process is to become gradually desensitized to the triggers that are causing your distress. This technique can be learned through your own self-help applications, but it can be more helpful to learn desensitization through the guidance of a professional therapist. 

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed.," 2013 Washington, DC: Author.

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