Agoraphobia - Help To End The Panic:

Do you struggle with, and feel trapped by, your agoraphobia? Whilst agoraphobia is often considered to be a fear of open spaces, it is very often much more than this and it can easily take over and limit your life.

I've worked with clients whose agoraphobia makes them too fearful to leave the house or to go more than a few steps down the road. For others, their panic attacks most when they are in crowded situations, or othe busy places outside their home. 

It can make even the most straightforward journey on public transport or going shopping into an ordeal of dread, fear and panic. And as anyone who has suffered with panic attacks will readily know, they are so overwhelming and so unpleasant that you will do all you can to avoid the possibility of another one. 

So how do you break the strangle hold that agoraphobia has over your life?

 Agoraphobia, Anxiety and  Panic

Agoraphobia often develops out of experiencing panic attacks. Maybe you were in a crowded place or a situation where you felt trapped or there was no easy way out, when you had a panic attack.

Your mind flipped into overdrive and you may have noticed your heart pounding rapidly and your breathing rate increasing. You may have felt hot, sweaty and shakey. You may have felt sick or even been sick, with your mouth drying up and your mind seemingly racing.

You may have thought you were going to pass out or be sick, or that you were somehow going mad. And every part of you was desperately seeking an escape route so you could get out of that situation.

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For whatever reason the panic started, your mind tagged that type of situation, and anything similar, as being dangerous and something to be avoided or escaped from. It may have subseqently felt like the panic was spreading into more and more situations in your life, as if those panic attacks came frighteningly out of the blue.

And so you started avoiding similar crowds in shops, on public transport and other busy places. You may have found that the safest place to be was at home and, as those panics could strike at any time when you were out, the most comfortable thing to do was stay at home. Yet the more you have avoided those things, the harder it seems to ever contemplate overcoming them.

Yet it is very possible to overcome your agoraphobia so that you can do the things you want to do feeling calm and in control. 

Agoraphobia Treatment

If you are struggling with agoraphobia then the strong likelihood is that you will need to work with a therapist to safely and successfully break the cycle and patterns of your panic. You want to find a therapist who understands how panic works and who can demonstrate that they achieve successful outcomes for clients.

And please do ask them enough questions so you know that they will help you switch off the panic and prime your mind and body to feel calm, as well as teaching you techniques and actions that you can use to stay in control of your thoughts and feelings.

To start to loosen the grip of your agoraphobia you can, along with therapy, put these three things into place:

1) Create Your Scale - rather than treat fear as something that is all or nothing, start to identify your own personal scale. On a piece of paper write the numbers zero to ten down one side. This is your action planning scale. At zero write the things that you already so calmly and securely (e.g. being at home). At ten write the thing that currently fills you with most dread (e.g. shopping in a busy shopping centre, travelling on the Tube etc). In between start to grade your panic.

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This starts to frame things because wherever you are right now on the scale, you only need to aim to succeed at the next level. If you are at zero and currently won't leave home, you only need to target the next step such as walking down the street. This is far more manageable than trying to jump to the extreme end (like going to a sold out concert at a stadium).

2) Practice Your Relaxation Response - when we feel anxious our heart rate and breathing increase as our body gets ready to take some action (such as getting out of the situation as quickly as possible). Your breathing will become shallow and fast, just like when you vigourously exercise.

To counter this, kick start your natural relaxation response by extending your out breath. Your body will have no option but to calm down and your mind will follow. Gently breathe in for an internal count of seven and then out for a count of eleven. Aim to inflate your belly as you breathe in and deflate it as you breathe out. Regularly practice this through the day so you know that as you start making progress, you can quickly keep yourself feeling calm and in control.

3) Programme Your Mind - with any fear, often just the thought that we may have to face it can get us feeling panicky, tense and full of dread. Instead of constantly re-enforcing the panic as you think of those situations, start using the power of your mind in a new way.

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Take some time out, sit down ansd close your eyes. Do some 7/11 breathing for a while so you feel calm and in control. Then start to imagine watching yourself going into formerly stressful situations yet looking calm, relaxed and confident. Imagining those scenarios whilst feeling calm and relaxed will encourage your mind to tag those situations as things that are ok. With practice, you can prime your mind to feel relaxed when thinking about them, as a precursor to going out can calmly do them (link this to your action plan and focus on succeeding with the next challenge). 

You can ramp up the power of your mind by imagining those situations whilst listening to this free audio while you do it.

Help To Overcome Agoraphobia

Whilst these three actions will give you a head start to defeating your agoraphobia, as already mentioned, you are going to need to work with a therapist who understands what is happening and why it happens, and who can help you to end the panic quickly and effectively. So with that in mind, if you want to chat to me about how I work and how I may be able to help you then let's meet for a free initial consultation to take the next step to freedom from fear.

To your success

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy Ely, Newmarket, Skype

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