With an event as life-changing as the Coronavirus pandemic, it is likely how we perceive the world as a whole will change. For example, people may have developed new fears and anxieties regarding the spread of illness, resulting in agoraphobia. How can we adjust our habits to diffuse situations where new anxieties may suddenly arise?
What is Agoraphobia?
Before learning to cope with agoraphobia, we first have to understand it. The popular definition of agoraphobia is a “fear of open spaces”, but this definition isn’t entirely correct. A more accurate description of the phobia would be “the fear of being in situations where escape or assistance may be difficult”. While this may include existing in an open space, other causes of anxiety for people with agoraphobia may include:
- Riding public transportation
- Going to a meeting or a class
- Going shopping
- Leaving home in general
While it is natural to experience some anxiety, especially after a pandemic, if someone’s worry causes them physical or emotional harm, or prevents them from going about their day, something is wrong.
So, how do we cope with agoraphobia?
One of the best solutions to coping with agoraphobia is to speak with a therapist, either in-person or over a call. A therapist will be able to take into account your fears and help you create a customized plan for coping with and avoiding agoraphobia-induced panic attacks. Overall, there are a few skills often recommended to help people with agoraphobia go out and do what they need to, the foremost being desensitization. Desensitizing yourself to stressful stimuli is a step-by-step process, and in the case of agoraphobia, is best done with trusted friends.
For example, going out to eat with a few friends in a familiar place is a step toward desensitization.
How the Pandemic Complicates Things
Unfortunately with the pandemic, it’s a bit difficult to socialize in person, much less in public places. Because of this, it may be hard for people struggling with agoraphobia to rationalize desensitization during or after the pandemic.
Fortunately, there are ways to begin desensitizing from home, along with preparation skills to use before going outside. For example, someone can research what they’re particularly afraid of at home. From there, they can build a sort of defense system for worst-case scenarios, equipped with coping mechanisms and the like. Writing down irrational thoughts that stem from your anxieties and then challenging them is a great way to help build confidence. Going out for a walk around a yard or someplace quiet is another way to begin desensitization as well, and this can be done without encountering people at all.
As always, it is important to speak with a professional if you are struggling with anxiety or agoraphobia. It is also crucial to keep practicing as well!