I used to think agoraphobia was simply not leaving your home (and it is), but it’s so much more than that. It’s a type of anxiety disorder that is the fear of or the action of avoiding situations that cause you panic or anxiety. Anxiety disorders left untreated can lead to agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia is something a little different for everyone. For me, it was the fear of crowds – from grocery stores to concerts and everything in between. It was standing in a line up, waiting my turn, and maybe having to actually talk to someone. I was afraid of driving and of being in a car – or air plane. And I was afraid of being alone in public. This meant I had to have a companion for everything. But everything didn’t mean much. Mostly it just meant doctors’ appointments because I avoided doing anything else.

Most people who have bipolar disorder suffer from some form of anxiety disorder – especially social anxiety. It becomes a fear of interacting with people and can lead to a life locked in your own four walls. Agoraphobia includes the fear of open places and enclosed spaces and can lead to full-blown panic attacks. Not only can all these fears bring on severe anxiety, but so too can just the anticipation of them as well.

Relaxation is key to calming the effects of agoraphobia. What that looks like is personal. For me, I choose yoga. I find it very relaxing and gives you a time to escape your fears. Other people try meditation and various breathing exercises. Psychotherapy and medication have been successful in quelling the pains of agoraphobia. It is important, as difficult as it is, to not to continue to avoid your anxiety stressor. The more you avoid your fear, the greater it becomes. The more often you face it, the less power over you it will have. Repeatedly facing difficult situations will eventually reduce your anxiety. Anxiety worsens bipolar disorder. It’s a vicious circle.

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