Defining Agoraphobia: Discover The True Definition Of Agoraphobia From An Ex-sufferer’s Perspective
There are two things that are apparent when you start to seek a definition for agoraphobia and that is that, depending on where you look, there is more than just one definition. If we take a look in a dictionary, we will find that the interpretation given there is similar to the following: a disease which results in the sufferer being afraid of open or public spaces which, can result in the sufferer becoming housebound.
The second usual definition goes something like this: An anxiety disorder where the sufferer lives in fear of finding themselves in an embarrassing situation from which there is no escape. More advanced agoraphobics may, indeed, become confined to their home in order to avoid any such discomfort occurring whilst in public.
We can see that the result of being housebound is the same in both definitions, how the sufferer becomes housebound, though, is quite different. So, let’s compare both definitions to the real-life experiences of an agoraphobic.
I became an agoraphobic more than twenty years ago, following a series of panic attacks that occurred whilst I was travelling. At that time, my phobia was only connected to travel by any mode of transport that I chose: car, train, bus etc. but walking around outside posed no threat whatsoever. However, as the years progressed so did the severity of the condition and eventually, after around 18 years or so, I became totally housebound.
So, what is it that can make an agoraphobic’s life so limited? I’ll try to explain as best I can. But, if after reading this you can’t quite grasp the whole concept, don’t worry, most health professionals that I’ve consulted over the years couldn’t grasp it either.
As an agoraphobic, I lived in fear of when my next panic attack would strike. I was lucky, in one respect, in that I’ve never had a panic attack whilst within the confines of my home. However, I do know of other agoraphobics that do suffer them at home, sometimes quite frequently. For me, there was a fear bigger than the fear of having yet another panic attack and that was of having a massive panic attack that left me in a condition whereupon I could no longer stand up and walk or would result in some uncontrollable and embarrassing emotional outburst.
Knowing that certain situations could trigger my panic fuelled the second part of my condition. Being in heavy traffic made me feel very panicky and uncomfortable or standing still and not progressing forward on public transport had the same effect. So any thought of such an encounter brought on my “what if” syndrome. I’d be travelling down a road where the traffic was light and flowing freely when a thought such as: “I hope the traffic isn’t backed up at this or that road intersection” would enter my head and this would get me “what ifing”. “What if the traffic is backed up and we’re stuck there for twenty minutes and what if I have a panic attack and what if I can’t get to work and can’t get home?” This kind of thinking had just one outcome; it made me scared. And being scared and away from my safe zone just brought on my panic. This was one of the worst parts of my agoraphobia; me thinking my way into a panic attack.
Agoraphobia and its partners in crime, panic attacks and anxiety, stole everything that made my life good. But it didn’t stop there. It’s effects upon me altered the lives of my family and friends too. Having recovered from this nightmare existance, it’s only now that I can look back and see just how debilitating this condition truly is.