I have Agoraphobia

If you read my earlier posts, you’ll see that I say time and time again that I have Claustrophobia. In a nutshell, I’m scared of being in confined spaces. But there was always something that didn’t add up with the term Claustrophobia – there was always something more to it than just that and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Problem is, for me, it doesn’t have to be a confined space. It can be a space that’s metaphorically confined. Such as a cinema or an exam. I can get out. But it’s not the done thing to do. Or it can be a large space that I can’t get out of. Like a train.

It’s only very recently that I stumbled across an actual definition for Agoraphobia.

fear

If you’d have asked me a year ago what Agoraphobia was, I’d have said quite simply ‘the fear of going outside’. But it’s so much more complex than that.

It’s the fear of being in a situation that you can’t escape from or get the help you need.

If I’m in a lift I can’t get help if I need it. If I’m on a train I can’t get off if I need to. If I’m in an exam, I can’t run out if I need to. If I’m in a queue, I can’t just leave and stand outside for a second. I’m trapped. But not actually trapped. 

For some people, they equate safety with home – and that’s why Agoraphobic’s have a reputation for having a fear of leaving the house.

For me though, I can leave the house. Outside is OK for me. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t feel comfortable somewhere isolated where I couldn’t get phone signal, but the average street is OK. But I can’t do buses, trains, sometimes cars, planes, lifts, cinemas, exams, long queues, and most recently – I can’t go higher than the first floor in a building.

It’s the most draining and inconvenient thing I’ve ever gone through. It’s only been within the last nine months that it’s got terrible and it’s just a living nightmare.

I can’t go home from university to see my family. I can’t get a bus into town. I can’t go on holiday. I can’t go to lectures at university because they’re like a cinema setting. I can’t even go to seminars if they’re on the top of a tall building.

It’s the most isolating phobia and illness I’ve ever come across.

The reason for writing this post is to impart some understanding. I guarantee half of you reading this now will also have the same connotations as I did about the phobia – ‘people with that don’t leave the house’. But it’s a complex and frustrating and terrorising fear that’s so difficult to comprehend until you have to face it yourself.

It’s not something I’ve really spoken about much; I tend to focus much more on my BPD and Cyclothymia. But now I think it’s time that I battle this too – and therefore it’s been added to my fact sheet page for you guys to get more info – BPD, Cyclothymia & Agoraphobia Fact Sheet

lovelauren

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62 thoughts on “I have Agoraphobia

  1. suchled says:

    From the latin claustro doesn’t just mean a confined place it also means a key. So you can happily be in a confined place just as long as you have a way of getting out that someone else can’t lock. I used to have claustrophobia (I still have it) but I can go anywhere IF I have someone guarding my way out.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Zoe says:

        Well, the diagnosis was definitely unexpected. Currently, I’m going to therapy for it. We’re trying to rationalize through the fears, through the thoughts that keep me from doing things or going to places. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to celebrate the small steps. My “homework” is to take one step out of my “comfort zone” each week. So far I’ve made it to the corner of my street… can’t cross the road yet. Still, it’s progress. A month ago I couldn’t even make it to the corner.

        Liked by 1 person

      • bylaurenhayley says:

        That’s a great idea. I’m glad you’re making improvements. They may be small to others but I’m sure they’re massive really to you. This is something I definitely need to apply to my own life a bit! Thanks for sharing

        Liked by 1 person

  2. maryef says:

    I know exactly what you are talking about. I have a fear of leaving my house but also a crippling fear of crowds and crowded spaces. These things have spurned many a panic attack. I wish you the best in dealing with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. therabbitholez says:

    I thought it was fear of open spaces, it must be so debilitating, and hard to plan your life around, as it literally includes everything. I had something similar that I couldn’t go out during the daytime, it frightened me everything about it left me sick with worry I’d sit in all day with the curtains drawn, the night time seemed to give me comfort, especially when I went for one of my many long walks,

    I hope you can find some relief from this.

    Liked by 1 person

      • therabbitholez says:

        I’m a social person and my working life has been spent around people, but I shut myself away for so long dealing with my illness alone I became afraid of everything, and it took a very long time for me to venture out in daylight.
        Baby steps for me was the key a little each day, but I got there:)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Aidan says:

    I think it’s great that you share these discoveries with us. I’ve also operated under the misunderstanding that agoraphobia was a fear of leaving your home/fear of people. For a long time, I assumed my social anxiety to be agoraphobia–how wrong I was! I have two phobias, but they are relatively minor, easily avoided without much (or any) modification of my day-to-day life. I can only imagine to have that applied to going to class or riding the bus.

    Best of luck to you on your journey! You’re a brave, strong young lady. I’m sure you will make great strides. =)

    Liked by 1 person

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      Thank you. It seems like an impossible task at the moment I must admit.

      My mum’s actually studying pyschology at the moment (and I’m like a pyschology degree textbook in myself haha!). She text me about an hour ago saying she had a lecture today on exposure to phobias and she feels like it’s time for us to try a train again. I know exposure is the best thing – I really do. But honestly the feeling of doing is just ridiculous. Her husband’s biggest fear is being stabbed and so my response was ‘I know mum. But in all honesty you telling me I need to get on a train sounds just as ridiculous as you telling Graham to stab himself in the stomach so that he doesn’t feel scared of that anymore’.

      That’s how scary it is – even if it is irrational! I’m looking at ways to tackle it but it’s going to be a long process!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aidan says:

        Exposure is good, but I understand that it seems completely counter-intuitive when it causes you such distress. That’s how I feel whenever I go out to places with large groups of people! I would usually rather the earth open up and swallow me whole.

        I believe in you, though! It will be scary, but this time next year you will look back and say, “Look at how far I’ve come!”

        Liked by 1 person

      • bylaurenhayley says:

        I hope so! I’m willing to try anything in honesty at the moment. I’m stressed, I can’t sleep, I’m not getting decent grades at uni because I can’t attend, I can’t go home – I can’t do anything! It’s not something I can live with. I’m actually looking into Hynotherapy to see if that’ll help as well. A bit of too much information – but when I was young I used to wet myself all the time, and hypnotherapy was the only thing that worked. Mum said I did it once afterwards when it had been an everyday thing. So my body’s obviously susceptible to it!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Aidan says:

        I’ve never tried hypnotherapy myself, but I’ve had it recommended to me a dozen times. Ironically, I haven’t scheduled an appointment because of my anxiety around using the phone. I need hypnotherapy just to schedule the hypnotherapy! Ha!

        I hope it goes well for you. I’m interested to hear about it, if you do it and end up sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Exploring Alura says:

    I think you did an awesome job explaining what the fear is that plagues you. However I was wondering if I could ask how that fear specifically manifests for you?

    If you were to walk into a dark closet in your house, one where the light was still shining under the door once it was closed, how would you react?

    Would this be a problem? Would stepping into the closet be an issue or would it be closing the door that was problematic? Would both be okay, but the resulting outcome of being in a small closet that would be the fear factor?

    Does the fear manifest immediately? Or does it take time to creep over you until you’re overwhelmed and panicky? What are the specific thoughts that go through your head when you start to feel overwhelmed in an agoraphobic situation? If you can’t remember specifics, what perspective is the fear manifesting from? Is it a voice like feeling saying you can’t escape? Or is it like a sensation that something is actively preventing you from leaving?

    I’m very interested to know more. Please forgive me if I’m being too forward. I attack mental illness by questioning it to death and then loving the pieces back to life. I was hoping to attack your fear in a similar method as I’ve attacked my own bipolar.

    If you’re okay with that…

    Liked by 1 person

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      That’s absolutely fine – I’m OK to talk about it. I would feel OK in the closet with the door closed as long as I knew where the handle was and it wasn’t locked. That way I have complete control of getting out of it. On a train I can’t get off until the train gets to it’s next stop. Even on a bus when I press the button it doesn’t stop immediately. That’s where my problem lies.

      The fear comes instantly. All I can think is that I need to get out and I can’t. When I walk into a room my natural reaction is to look at the exits and suss them out. But if it’s a situation like an exam where I can’t just walk out that instantly makes me nervous. Because I’m as trapped as I would be in a locked closet.

      Panic attacks come on with the flick of a switch. Because I’ve been struggling I had special..things put in place for my exams at uni a few weeks ago. So that I wasn’t in the crowd of the exam hall. It wasn’t until the day of the exam though that I realised my exam was now on the second floor of a building. I did it. I managed. But I wanted to throw up. I was shaking. I felt sick. It took me half an hour to walk up two sets of stairs without passing out. Two sets of stairs is just way too far from the door for my liking. That’s a good 5 minute journey to get out.

      It’s a control thing. I’ve had an eating disorder in the past that manifested because I developed a fear of choking. It’s the not being in control of something bad happening to me. I know that. But it doesn’t make it any easier unfortunately!

      There’s never been a situation where I’ve been stuck and not been able to get out. I can drive. I used to get trains all the time because I’m at uni three hours away from home. Nothing ever happened to change that. I’ve never choked on my food.

      The only thing I can put it down to is there have been abuse situations in my past where I wish I’d been in more control. And I didn’t have that control. Being in a situation where I experience my agoraphobia, I’m not in control!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exploring Alura says:

        I had control issues. Big time. I can definitely relate. However I had a very defining moment when I literally faced my fear and took a leap into the fear of the unknown.

        Shortly before my breakdown I left home and went on a walkabout. I literally wandered an entire day on foot following signs from a higher power. Anyways, during my walk I was lead to an abandoned railroad track. It was old and falling apart. All of the wood was in varying states of decay. Either way, my triangle of birds indicated I was to follow this path. So I did.

        After following the tracks for awhile, I came to a dead stop. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t take another step out of fear for what might happen. I was standing on the edge where the railroad went over a stream below. It was nothing but open tracks over a very jagged, rocky, brambly branch infested stream. And every single railroad tie looked as though it was unable to support any weight. It was terrifying. Even inching my toe in the direction of the next tie was mind numbingly scary.

        But I had a choice, I could accept that I wasn’t meant to die here walking over this shabby bridge and continue on the path I was shown to follow or I could turn back and find another way and hope for more signs to get me back on track.

        In the beautiful coincidences of life my thoughts at that point brought me to a dead halt. I had a choice to make. I could either accept who I believed I was or I could accept what others tell me is wrong as actually being incorrect.

        The choices were synchronistic, both tying into the other. By choosing to believe I wasn’t meant to die here at that moment, I was choosing to accept I am who I believe I am and am being guided to follow a special path laid out just for me.

        I stood there for a bit contemplating my choices. Panicking in the face of the unknown looming, literally and metaphorically, right in front of me. I was terrified of losing control. Of losing myself.

        And then it clicked. If I’m this scared while I consider myself to be in control, how much am I really controlling the situation? Reality is the situation was controlling me. With an illusion of pain and suffering, I was running away in fear of myself and fear of losing control. As soon as I realized the illusion, the fear was gone.

        I shakily took my first step out over that brook and then literally danced my way the rest of the way. At the very moment I thought I was losing control, it was the very moment I took absolute control of my life.

        Before I took that step, I couldn’t know for sure what was going to happen but I could imagine the worst. And so I did. My imagination was so vivid and sinister that I scared the shit out of myself. But my imagination isn’t reality and neither was my fear of that bridge or my fear of my true identity.

        My fear was of not knowing what I would do in the face of the unknown I couldn’t predict. It was all an illusion that I was scared of losing control. Because the truth is, by the mere fact of being alive, I am in control of myself. I dictate what I will or will not do in every detail of my life. What happens based on my choices is up to the cosmos, but I find comfort knowing that the next time a choice comes around, I am the one controlling the decision.

        Controlling the decision just not the outcome.

        Perhaps that line of thinking might help you. Take for instance a school exam you are choosing to sit down for. It may not be socially acceptable to get up in the middle of a test because you need to leave, but you chose to be there for the exam in a class you chose to take for the semester at the college you chose to attend. You made all of those choices that resulted in bringing you to class at that moment in time. So you directly controlled where you were going to be for that duration of time.

        Now that you have made that choice, life will flow naturally until one of two things happens – you finish the test or you need to leave the classroom immediately. Should you feel you need to leave in the middle of the exam, you are immediately presented with how you want to control the situation.

        Do you want to continue the exam and suffer mental torture for doing so or do you want to break societal standards and respect the special needs of your body? Regardless of what you choose, you still are in control of the situation. Even if you don’t like the choices you are presented with, they are still up for you to decide the best course of action.

        Choices are still choices. And when you have choices, you have the ability to control your life and your situations.

        I hope this makes sense and can perhaps relieve some of the mental stress you are under. I’m rooting for you.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Diana Holberg says:

    Lauren, thank you for explaining so well your feelings in this area. I can relate to control issues – life has beaten them out of me, and it’s such a painful process. I’ve also suffered the fear of choking – an anxiety thing for me. I will be adding this to my prayer intentions. God bless.

    Like

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      Thank you so much – obviously I hate that someone else has been through that same fear of choking because it’s awful, but I’m glad I’m not the only one – you’re the first person I’ve come across that’s also experienced it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. jojogill25 says:

    Really refreshing to read something like this, I suffer from the exact same thing! Mine is in relation to my emetophobia I think – what if I’m sick and I can’t get out? What if people judge me for leaving when it’s not really ok to leave but what if I need to because I’m sick? Hence the always needing an aisle seat or always looking for the nearest exit when entering a room. Thanks for writing xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      Luckily for me this hasn’t come on until recently so I’ve been able to enjoy these things. but I completely understand where you’re coming from and I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with them now. I hope things get easier for you!

      Like

  8. Sophie says:

    I have social anxiety, im not worried about being social, im very anti social in real life, i just dont want to be outside. Thank you for posting this, its definalty something im going to look into, im already thinking up todays excuse to miss group, but i know ive got to go 😔 hope you have a good day x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. conquestoflife says:

    You know, my site is only 4 days young. And I’ve noticed you’re one of the most active visitors on it, and I really appreciate it! I was curious to see what your blog was about, and this post truly is the inspiration for the next article I plan to write. I’ve noticed in a number of your comments here that it seems “impossible” to get over this fear. And not only is this fear VERY possible to get over, but it has an equally easy and blissful solution. The only thing you have to fear is fear itself. I know fear is out of your control, but confidence is completely in your control. Just simple habits you can fit in your routine can (and will) change your overall state. Our habits control our life, if you fit a habit into your life, it will soon not become a habit, but a way of thinking. It will be part of you. Small steps throughout your day will build the momentum you need to achieve the mental stability you desire. And judging from your blog posts I truly believe you can do it. Well, that was my two cents, I hope the rest of your week goes well, and try your best to shift your focus. Take care.

    Like

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      Hi, thank you very much for commenting. I like to think it is possible as well – I have overcome ‘impossible’ things and challenges in the past. So thank you for your encouraging words and I’ll try my hardest! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my blog 🙂

      Like

      • conquestoflife says:

        No problem! Nothing you do in life is impossible. Just judging off of your blog you’re obviously a smart, attractive, and outgoing female. As cliche as it sounds, there is absolutely nothing you can’t do. Always remember it’s your head, it doesn’t belong to anyone else. I guarantee that there are women who would give absolutely anything to be you- to look like you, to be able to write like you, and to have the strength to talk about how you feel openly. I mean face it, most women try to make you guess how they feel :P. But just admitting that you know what is wrong is the first step, and I’m confident you could easily make it to the last. And your blog? I’m glad you enjoyed mine! Being able to show people different ways of thinking to succeed, and being acknowledged for it puts a warm spot in my heart, and I truly have a sense of gratitude for that. I’m glad you enjoyed mine! 🙂

        Like

  10. choochoomf says:

    This is so awful because it just feeds on itself. When I was in my early 20’s my panic points were red lights and restaurants. My sister was an agorphobic for over 20 years. Literally confined to her house and maybe a mile or two surrounding it. In recent years she’s been doing much, much better.

    Liked by 1 person

      • choochoomf says:

        IDK… maybe because one time I had an anxiety attack at a red light and my brain – at the time – immediately made the association so therefore all red lights became like, “Oh no!”, and you know where that can lead; avoidance, not driving, etc. Restaurants were a MAJOR problem for years! I felt trapped by all this food and like I HAD to eat it all and it just ballooned from there. That was many, many years ago though and I’m ok at red lights and restaurants are now a safe place. Lots of work though! And lots and lots of constant exposure over and over again to good experiences. Regarding my sister, there was a life-changing incident in our birth family, (we’re all married and have our own families for many years now) She felt like she hit rock bottom and went to a medical doctor for the first time in at least 20 years. She was diagnosed with Hoshimoto’s disease, thyroid not working, and given meds for that plus an anti-depressent and things have become so much better. Not perfect, but definitely better. Her comfort zone has opened up so much more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • bylaurenhayley says:

        That’s great to hear. I understand what you mean about restaurants. I always feel underpressure from the environment. I always cover my left over food with a napkin so that they waiter doesn’t make a sarcastic comment and make a big deal out of it. I’m glad you both feel a lot better now! Thanks for sharing

        Liked by 1 person

      • choochoomf says:

        You’re welcome. It will take time but this doesn’t define you. I remember too going to college and I always had to sit in the first seat by the door. It sounds like you have a great support system with your mom and I believe it is crucial to have one person who gets it. Keep fighting because it’s worth it. It’ll never go completely away but I think the gift from anxiety and its ilk is we are really sensitive, empathic people. The world needs more of us. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  11. crazyruthie says:

    hi again lauren! i have agoraphobia and it’s exactly what you describe.

    a tank of gas lasts 2 months since i drive so rarely. this morning i ordered glue sticks (for making collages) from amazon so i wouldn’t have to leave the house.

    i can’t fly on planes. we have a king size bed so i have a lot of space and am not touching my dog or my husband when i sleep. i want to take a figure drawing class but i can’t cause i’d have to stay there whether i wanted to or not. i’ve been like this for years. it’s been ever since i spent some time in the hospital against my will.

    at least we have the internet! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      It’s so sad isn’t it when you write it all down – it’s no way to live it’s such a shame. I actually have my first of three sessions of hypnotherapy a week today. I’m a bit nervous but it’s just getting worse and worse and I need to try and stop it – so I’ll do another post after and let you know how it goes!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. lola gayle says:

    Thanks for speaking up about this. I too have a severe case. Can barely make it in my own yard. Every time I need to go somewhere, the battle within myself gets worse. I usually just give up and let the condition win. Lost a big one today (and at the expense of my boyfriend on his birthday). All he wanted was to go to a museum and I cant even manage that. :: sigh ::

    Like

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      It’s really difficult for the people around us. I often feel bad for my boyfriend that he has to put up with this – it wasn’t what he signed up for. But it has to get better, just keep trying to push and take baby steps. Even sitting outside for 10 minutes next to your back door and the gradually you’ll learn that it’s not going to harm you and there’s nothing to be afraid of! Good luck

      Liked by 1 person

      • lola gayle says:

        Yes, my boyfriend has been so very supportive. But I know it must be a drain on him at times. And my poor family, they get so frustrated with me sometimes. But they love me and are more than understanding. Good luck to you as well!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. corruptpsycho says:

    I also have agoraphobia, have made posts on how I got to the point where I could go out. By forcing myself outside into the public I had no choice but to get used to it. Podcasts also help, gives me something to focus on, like being in a conversation.
    Sometimes you have to be self destructive to get better

    Like

  14. tolbert says:

    Excellent posting! By the way, did you know the word ‘agoraphobia’ literally means ‘fear of the marketplace’ from the word ‘agora’, (the marketplace) and ‘phobia’, (fear)…The word stems from the crowded open-air markets in Jerusalem…

    Thanks for your wonderful posts…I’ll be back!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. reystorm says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I know someone who I suspect has agoraphobia and everything you said fits so well with their behavior. It makes complete sense. It’s really hard to find information like this.

    Like

    • bylaurenhayley says:

      I’m glad you find it useful. My email is on my contact page if you ever want to talk about it or anything. It is difficult because it’s such a hard to explain phobia. I’m finally getting some help in the form of both therapy and hypnotherapy, but it’s a long road ahead!

      Like

  16. daetecgroup says:

    I have struggled with agoraphobia on and off since I was 15. I recently found audiobooks by Dr. Claire Weekes that have been extremely helpful. They are very affordable, they’re available on Audible. I can’t even begin to describe the hope these audiobooks have given me. I’m not cured, there’s no quick miracle cure, but I have made it to the grocery store without assistance for the first time in around 8 years. Please look into them, I get no money or other kind of material benefit from suggesting or promoting her audiobooks, just one hopeful agoraphobic to another 😉

    Like

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