Agoraphobia - Counselling and Therapy

05 - Mar - 2022

Have you ever felt unsafe in a public space even though everyone else seems to be acting calmly? Maybe you feel as though you need someone with you, feeling frightened at just the thought of being outside alone? Or maybe it is particular types of confined spaces that trigger horrible feelings? Or maybe it's different types of travel - cars, buses, planes, trains etc? Experiences of hyperventilating, dizziness, feeling unwell, panic, palpitations, being sick if you do try and go out? Missing out on everyday life, not being able to meet friends and family, go shopping, attend job interviews or travel? Finding yourself having really negative sensations and feelings even though your thoughts are not able to determine any particular specific threat? Worrying about your worries?

All of these things are part of the devastating experience of agoraphobia and often people feel ashamed so that they do not even tell others that they are having this struggle.

“Sufferers of agoraphobia are often told they are frightened of nothing and this only serves to increase suffering, the agoraphobia contains a message yet to be understood” Nicholas Rose, UKCP Psychotherapist

The causes of agoraphobia are not entirely clear, bad experiences and traumas may well be key as well as periods of poor health where someone has gotten used to staying home. There does also appear to be a link with vestibular disorders whereby patients have to rely more on other senses thereby resulting in certain situations feeling overwhelming. 

Over the last few years the pandemic has created a particular context in which other people and being outside has had real risks so it is natural for us to take some time to readjust. We also have terrible events unfolding with a war in Europe and so, again, it can be natural to feel safer staying at home. But if at the moment you are finding that your quality of life is suffering because you cannot do things that you or others think of as everyday the word agoraphobia might resonate for you?

The NHS website in the UK states: “Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn't be available if things go wrong”. Does this feel right for you?

Agoraphobia is something that people often bring to therapy if they are certain that there are no underlying physical concerns. Whilst agoraphobia can be understood through a common set of symptoms and characteristics everyone's experience will be different and as such the way to manage and deal with it will be uniquely personal too.

In therapy we seek to explore the way in which the sufferer experiences agoraphobia through a detailed exploration, then with a greater understanding comes the possibility for new ways of thinking about and approaching the situations which are connected with the symptoms. Whilst there are tools and techniques available it is often the case that a full understanding enables a sufferer to find their own way of making effective change.

Therapy usually ends once any changes have been implemented and the sufferer is happy that life  is satisfactory.