Agoraphobia Symptoms - In Real Life
One of the best ways to understand agoraphobia symptoms is to share a real life story. A friend of ours, James Young (not his real name) volunteered to share his own personal experience and his struggles with panic attacks and agoraphobia.
You will learn about which symptoms he first noticed and the process of denial and worry that eventually drove him to get help.
Just in case you are not familiar with the condition, agoraphobia generally develops as a secondary issue to panic disorder, so the symptoms an agoraphobic experiences are often avoidance issues that are created by fear of panic attacks.
These often involve fear of leaving safe places and people and frequently culminate in the individual becoming housebound. For a complete list of the most common agoraphobia symptoms scroll down to the end of this page.
The following paragraphs were written by an agoraphobic man describing some of his personal experiences with the condition. Thank you James for sharing your personal life so generously with us so that so many of us can learn and be helped by what you went through!
You know you are agoraphobic when....by James Young
Some people ask me what it's like to have agoraphobia and how can you tell if you have it. Well, this condition is just about the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
It was so bad and so embarassing that at first I just ignored the signs. But I mean, really , I guess it was pretty obvious.
I started to not go out and just prefer to stay at home.
Staying at home can be a big sign that you might be agoraphobic.
The fear of going out by yourself, especially if it's out of your 'safe zone' is a very common sign that you might have agoraphobia. And if you do manage to go out, it is under a tremendous amount of stress, pressure and anxiety.
If you do go out, it's also very likely that you will have to be accompanied by someone, which is another common way for agoraphobics to deal with the problem.
Of course, this can cause a strain in your relationship with your 'safe person'.
I used to only feel comfortable going out if my girlfriend was there. You can probably imagine how awkward this was for me.
Delia, my girlfriend, was sympathetic at first, but eventually she grew weary of the responsibility. She would try to help me by alternating between never leaving my side and a kind of "forcing me out of the nest" approach.
But she started to get resentful.
She wanted me to be a strong man for her - which was really what I wanted to be -- but most times I just couldn't get the nerve to do things on my own.
I started to making up excuses.
"I have an important project I need to stay home to do - could you go out and get the milk?"
"I am feeling like I am getting a migraine - I`ll need to skip going to your first office Christmas party this year - but it's just for this time - trust me!"
"Hey, let`s order our groceries online - I found a great delivery service."
Well she saw through this and try as she might just couldn't understand why I couldn't just be a normal guy?
A lot of resentment set in on her part and mine as well.
I had a limited list of the places I felt safe going to.
I tried to convince people, and myself, that I just preferred to stay in.
My dirty little secret was that I was terrified of having a panic attack. I was especially afraid of having one in a place where I wouldn`t be able to escape or hide, where lots of people might see me and laugh or scorn me or know how sick I was.
Places like movie theatres, shopping malls, crowded streets, public transport were just too stressful to even think about. Just easier to avoid.
Unfortunately the office where I worked was also a place I was really worried about having an attack in - which had obvious impact on my ability to earn a living.
I started worrying about what would happen if I had a panic attack right when I was making an important presentation.Then everyone I worked with would know. I was afraid they would realize what a sorry excuse I was and how I had become afraid of almost everything.
Soon even attending meetings became difficult. Then even walking down the hall.
I was filled with shame and revulsion - yet I didn`t know what to do.
If this story resonates with you even a little bit, I really feel for you. It is not a fun condition to have. Agoraphobia symptoms keep you in your own prison. For awhile it ruined my life.
But strangely it also ended up being an experience that taught me alot about myself and about life in general. Once I came to understand what was happening and got some strategies to help me I got to a point where I am ok again.
If you think this might also be happening to you read this list of other agoraphobia symptoms.
Some Common Agoraphobia Symptoms
- The fear of being alone (especially when psychological comfort from a trusted person is not present)
- The fear of having a panic attack
- Constantly relying on others to go out
- Being housebound for a long time (or completely), or restricted to a 'safe zone' like your neighborhood
- Fear of not being able to escape a situation that would be considered normal for most - eg a bank line, bus ride, movie theatre, elevator
- Avoidance of activities in public places
- Fear of losing control, particularly when there's a crowd
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sweating, numbness, nausea or chest pain when out of your comfort zone
- Fear of taking public transport, especially by yourself
- Feeling as if your body and / or environment is unreal
These are some of the more common agoraphobia symptoms. There are of course also other more rare agoraphobia symptoms not listed here.
The biggest sign of agoraphobia is when you start to really limit your life due to fear of having a panic attack.
The key to getting over this condition is to eliminate this fear.
If you have any of these agoraphobia symptoms or think you might have agoraphobia - don't worry - there is help. Please check out this information on How to cure agoraphobia
Take the agoraphobia test
Learn about Agoraphobia Causes
Return from Agoraphobia Symptoms to the Panic And Agoraphobia home page.