The feelings associated with both panic attacks and agoraphobia can be overwhelming. Understanding the origin of your feelings and why they seem to be so disproportionate to those around you is a crucial part of managing and controlling your disorder.
Agoraphobia is caused by one or a combination of genetics and biology, life experiences and your temperament. That´s not to say you have defective genetics or a bad personality but simply things present in your biology and temperament make you more likely to experience it.
For people who have had traumatic life experiences, agoraphobia can sometimes result. But again, lots of people experience trauma of one sort or another and not everyone develops it, so there is something else that contributes to the phobia that is now hampering your life.
Agoraphobia often strikes during late adolescence or early adulthood. Thus, teens and people in their twenties are the most common initial sufferers. However, it also affects younger children and older adults and the condition can last for years or decades if untreated.
People who have this disorder are more likely to have problems with panic, have stressful life situations, are often anxious or nervous, or have substance abuse problems.
For people who have experienced multiple panic attacks and have panic disorder or who have experienced a single, isolated attack, that experience can be so overwhelming emotionally that your mind goes into survival mode.
The thought of having another attack is simply too much to bear. The situations which you think might cause panic are avoided at all costs.
Situations big and small are avoided with excuses, avoidance or simply fleeing, all to avoid the possibility of another attack. However, all this obsessing about panic attacks and avoiding them has your mind in such a frenzy that it might actually be triggering it or making them more likely.
If all you do is think about how badly you have to go to the bathroom, all you think about is the pressure on your bladder. If you think about something else, you´ll probably be able to make it to the next restroom. It´s the same with panic; fixation on the prevention of attacks actually makes them more likely to occur because your compulsion to avoid them causes increased stress and anxiety. Simply devising methods of avoidance and crafting excuses is exhausting and stressful.
The first step in controlling your panic and resulting agoraphobia is to recognize what has caused you it in the first place and what situations triggered the attacks that have you living in such fear. Write down the answers to the following questions and start to look for patterns.
1. When was the first time you had an attack? The second? The third?…
2. How old were you?
3. Where were you?
4. How did you feel before the attack?
5. What were you thinking about before ?
6. How did you feel during ?
7. How did you feel after ?
8. How soon did the symptoms go away?
9. Were there any lasting physical effects?
The reason these questions are important is to understand what the causes and then to also realize that the effects were temporary, the symptoms went away quickly and that there were no long lasting physical effects.
Life goes on and so will yours. You know a rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath is not going to kill you. You know you can survive and recover from the detrimental effects of a panic attack. Why avoid it, take on the challenge!
Panic attacks are like that bully at school, they seem big and bad but once you stand up to them, they back down. They only visit if they know you are scared of them. The bully only steals lunch money from the kids that are afraid of him, otherwise it´s too much trouble and he doesn´t want to bother or encounter any resistance.
By providing a little resistance you can beat that panic attack bully back and not worry about going to the lunch room anymore. Once you are no longer afraid of that lunchroom, your agoraphobia will diminish as well.