Stepping in a crowded elevator, riding public transports, or even leaving your home are
only normal day-to-day activities for most people. But for someone with agoraphobia,
it’s a struggle.
Agoraphobia is characterized as the fear of being in situations where escape is almost
impossible, or help isn’t readily available when things go south. These situations can
range from commuting on a public ride, to waiting in line for concerts, or just leaving
one’s home in general.
Agoraphobic people often experience the symptoms of a panic attack like rapid heart
beating, breathing, and feeling hot and sick when they find themselves in these kinds of
While living with agoraphobia is challenging, it’s also quite the struggle to know a friend
or relative who has it. Because you can only do so much. Of course, it’s nothing
compared to the anxiety that they face. But it’s also tough when you just want to help
but don’t know what to do.
In this piece, we rounded up the things that you can do to help someone who’s
agoraphobic. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to treat your loved one, because treatment requires that he or she works with a licensed mental health professional. However, you can be a part of a strong support system and help ease the situation.
1. Learn More About The Disorder
Agoraphobia is often misunderstood simply as a fear of open spaces. But it’s actually
more complex than that. If you want to help a friend or loved one who’s agoraphobic, it’s
best if you educate yourself more about it.
Learning the triggers for agoraphobia and the symptoms that someone may experience
can be helpful. This way, you’ll know how to avoid these triggers, or at least notice if
your friend is currently having a panic attack due to agoraphobia. Reading blogs or articles from agoraphobic people, and other sources will also help you to be more understanding and empathetic.
2. Acknowledge His or Her Feelings And Experiences
Telling your friend to “get over it” or to “man up” when his fear kicks in is certainly not the
way to help. It may sound encouraging to you, but it’s not. In fact, these are the
words you shouldn’t tell to anyone with anxiety because they can make the situation
much more traumatic for the affected person.
An effective approach is to simply acknowledge your friend’s feelings and never trivialize them
just because you aren’t experiencing the same condition. Understanding your friend’s feelings and showing compassion can be pivotal to treatment.
3. Create An Anxiety Plan With Your Friend
An organization called Anxiety Canada introduced the concept of MAP or My Anxiety Plan. MAP is a set of steps and strategies that you and your friend will use to deal with the symptoms of agoraphobia, or anxiety disorder in general.
Developing a game plan in dealing with the anxiety or the triggers of it can be helpful to
both of you. This way, you’ll know what to do in specific times and situations. When the
fear kicks in again, you’ll both know what to do.
4. Be A Source of Solid Support
Being a part of a strong support system doesn’t mean that you have to understand everything.
To be honest, it can be very difficult to relate to your friend, especially if you’re not really experiencing the same things.
But what you can do is to create a judgment-free environment whenever you’re with him or her. Let your friend know that even though you don’t know exactly what he or she is feeling at
times, you’re always ready to listen.
You can also encourage your friend to go to the places that usually trigger feelings of panic, in your company of course, and help him or her face situations that would normally
be avoided. If your friend starts to panic, at least you’re there to offer the support he or she needs.
5. Be Patient
It can be hard to relate to someone who’s agoraphobic and truly understand his or her experiences. But you can still help by simply showing patience, compassion, and a willingness to listen. It will be a lot easier for your friend if he knows that he can hold onto you when
overwhelming situations occur.
6. Be Present
Being present doesn’t always have to be physical. It’s understandable that you can’t
always be beside your friend. But you can give your friend a call to
see how he or she is doing. These efforts let your friend know that you care.
7. Encourage Him or Her To Seek Professional Help
Agoraphobia is not something to simply brush off. It’s a serious condition that can cause
overwhelming and traumatic experiences to those who have it. While it is recommended that you offer support, it is important to remember that you cannot treat the condition. Only the professionals can do it, with the consent and cooperation of the person who’s agoraphobic.
There’s one other thing you can do, though. You can encourage your friend to seek anxiety
treatment if he or she hasn’t considered going to therapy. Help your friend improve their quality. Professional mental health can can help our friend to address current concerns and avoid future complications. If you want to learn more, read this article on how anxiety can ruin one’s life!