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Agoraphobia - a Toxic Relationship With Yourself

What is Agoraphobia?

To be quite frank - up until I had it, I did not know.

Reader, this one is for you: My sincere apologies. Apologise? Yes, because you are on either side of this very linear spectrum. You either do not know about it, or you know about it, because you are most probably working in the mental health field, or you have it. This is at least true in South Africa, where mental health is not yet a full-blown advocacy.

Agoraphobia [ ag-er-uh-foh-bee-uh ]

To keep this reading experience true to itself and a reflection of my opinion - frank, clear and apologetic - I do not feel the need to make this definition very technical:

Agoraphobia is a phobia or irrational fear of what seems to be everything except your comfort zone. It is a disproportionate fear of basically all the places and things you once loved or experienced. The inside of a shopping mall or market, going on a road trip in the driver's seat of your own car, walking into a bar or restaurant, digging your toes into the sand of a vast and open beach, sometimes even the boardroom at your company.

This fear, which is quite illogical, buries its roots in some or other form of anxiety and panic disorder/s. More commonly Agoraphobia is caused by an ill-treated anxiety disorder that spiralled.


Who can get it?

Agoraphobia quite commonly sticks out its ugly head between the ages of 18 - 35, predominantly in females. So yes, it strikes just in time - graduating senior year, university, first job, first serious relationship... You get the just, right?

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I am personally of opinion that mental health issues do not discriminate and is not at all stereotypical or biased. It can happen to anyone - whether it is as a result of a complication of another disorder or even genetic pre-disposition. Stress and anxiety is one of the adjectives that we tend to incorporate in our daily vocabularies. It is one of the realities of our day and age. We live fast-paced lives, often just making time for our own mental health over a cup of coffee or snack between deadlines and responsibilities.

I, personally did not know that I was going to be one of the people on the brunt-end of the spectrum. I wish I knew and I am sure you would want to, too.

...the condition is thought of as modern, or as a terror of modern amplitude

— Blake Morrison

What impact does Agoraphobia have on your life?

The impact of Agoraphobia can be quite devastating. As with many mental health issues, getting the correct help and advice at an early stage can be greatly beneficial. Having said that, Agoraphobia can be quite sneaky. Agoraphobia in its initial stages can be ascribed to just another anxiety or panic attack, but that is what makes it so destructive.

Unfortunately the brain is wired to associate feelings of fear and panic with places, spaces and events. Do not be surprised when you enter that same space again at a later stage and your automatic fight-or-flight response kicks in without giving any notice. That is when the avoidance behaviour starts. When you persistently start to avoid situations based off of those feelings, then you are more than likely suffering from Agoraphobia. When you start to avoid situations, you start to limit yourself. Once you limit yourself? You find yourself stuck in your comfort zone. A comfort zone can be quite soothing as it provides you with a sense of security, but you will come to a stage where you want out.

Risk factors

  • a surplus of anxiety and stress
  • having previously or currently being diagnosed with an anxiety or panic disorder
  • having the tendency to worry and being sensitive to situations which make you nervous
  • a stressful event
  • having relatives with agoraphobia or anxiety and panic disorders
  • avoidance of stressful or fearful situations

Dear reader...

As you sit on your end of the spectrum, I do still apologize. For you who are reading about this issue for the first time - I apologize for the fact that you weren't made aware of the possible repercussions of recurring stress and anxiety. For you, struggling with Agoraphobia on a daily basis - I apologize. I apologize that it turned out like this, I apologize that people are not as sensitive to it.

My wishes? I hope you carry this with you. I hope you recognize the signs and I truly hope that you can sympathize. I hope you get help when you need it, before it is too late.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2023 Dane Lombaard

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