How to Help Someone With Agoraphobia

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Erika Teachout, MA, Outpatient Therapist  If your loved one has agoraphobia, it can be difficult to know how to help when you don’t understand what they’re going through. Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that isn’t just feeling a little nervous or anxious. It is an intense, life-altering disorder that involves the fear of being unable to escape situations or places in the event they feel panicked, helpless, or embarrassed.   This extreme fear leads to avoidance behaviors, where they avoid places that the fear might take over. For example, a person with agoraphobia might avoid driving, traveling by plane, being in small spaces, or shopping in a mall.  

If You’re Struggling 

Nystrom & Associates provider Erika Teachout has a message for those experiencing agoraphobia:  
You gain strength, confidence, and courage in every experience where you really stop and look fear in the face. You can say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror, and I can take on the next thing that comes along." Part of the recovery process is doing the thing that you are most afraid of and realizing you can be afraid but still have forward motion. Have safe people with you as you start going out. Limit the amount of time. Don't expect more from yourself than you would someone else in your position. 
Having a loved one provide support is invaluable. And when it comes to helping someone with agoraphobia, you want to be there for them, without being pushy.   Related: Panic Attacks: 4 Quick Tips to Help Cope 

Learn About Agoraphobia 

One way to help someone with agoraphobia is to learn about the disorder. It can be different for everyone, and it’s key to educate yourself on the condition, especially if you are unfamiliar with anxiety in general. Doing so will give you better insight as to what they might be going through and is also helpful in clearing up some myths about the disorder. Agoraphobia is often misunderstood, so educating yourself from trusted sources is a step in the right direction and can improve communication between you and your loved one.  

Use Positive Language 

In addition to learning about agoraphobia, being supportive and sympathetic is essential. Even though the situations that are frightening to them don’t influence you, do not say things like, “just get over it,” or, “it's no big deal.” Those types of statements could make matters worse. And if they trusted you enough to confide in their struggles, belittling them will only turn them away from you. Instead, celebrate their wins, no matter how small, and don’t pressure them. Words of encouragement go a long way.   Related: How to Build Your Self-Esteem 

Check-In Regularly  

Make it a point to check in regularly. Chat with them often about how they’re doing and let them know you care. Someone with agoraphobia could be limiting their social interactions as an effect of the disorder which can be damaging to their physical and mental health.   Be patient with their progress and support them by being ready to accompany them to the grocery store, bank, or wherever else when they’re ready.  

Encourage Treatment 

To reduce symptoms and help them cope, encourage them to find professional mental health treatment. Left untreated, a person with agoraphobia might struggle with other mental health conditions or turn to substance use. Seeking out the right help is crucial to getting better and coping with the long and short-term effects of agoraphobia.  

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

At Nystrom & Associates, our providers are experienced in treating anxiety and work with clients wherever they’re at. Reach out today to request an appointment online or call 1-844-NYSTROM.   Related: 5 Effective Stress Management Tips 

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