Will the Pandemic Lockdown Bring Back My Agoraphobia

Tears on face of woman with agoraphobia

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Years ago my anxiety disorder spiraled out of control. It was right around the time I quit my job. The thought of leaving my home, for any reason, paralyzed me. I would sweat, my heart would race and I felt like I was going to pass out. I missed my daughters’ award ceremonies and dance competitions. I wouldn’t even go to the grocery store by myself and if I took one of the kids with me and there were long lines, I would often turn around and walk out, making an excuse as to why we had to leave abruptly. Driving farther than a few miles completely freaked me out, especially if there was any sort of traffic. My doctor called it agoraphobia. It was a term I had only heard in the movies and at the moment she said it, I was positive she had misunderstood what I was going through and had surely gotten it wrong.

Regardless, I looked it up…

Agoraphobia is the extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.

Contrary to what I thought I saw in the movies, agoraphobia isn’t just panic when you leave your home. It also includes my fear of crowded places and places where I can’t easily leave (which would explain my panic attack in line for the ferry at Disney all those years ago). The doctor was correct and that terrified me. But it did put a name to what was happening to me, so there was a bright side… I guess.

With a lot of work, a lot of resistance and way too many tears, I overcame my fear of leaving the house within six months or so and although I still have trouble going places on my own, or without my husband in the car with me, I was able to overcome a part of my agoraphobia, to a degree.

I was finally going out more. I was pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I went to my daughters’ award shows and dance competitions. We went on a number of family road trips, one as far as 600 miles away and on a cruise with my best friend. I even went to Disney World and LEGOLAND, crowds and all. In my mind, I was getting better and I was feeling better. I made so much progress that I was finally starting to feel hopeful again.

And then the pandemic happened.

Since March 13th, I have left the house only a few times, which mostly consisted of me sitting in the car, or taking pictures at a local park. I have not been around anyone except my immediate family. I haven’t even walked into a store, thanks to delivery services and my husband’s weekly trips to the grocery store. I’ve resorted back to my “agoraphobia days” but this time out of necessity, not by choice.

My friends and family were constantly checking in with me, thinking my anxiety would be bad, but in fact, my anxiety had calmed down significantly.  Not having to go anywhere probably had a lot to do with that. I didn’t have to worry about being in a crowded space, or feeling trapped. In fact, I didn’t have to worry about leaving home because technically, we weren’t allowed to go anywhere.

Then all of a sudden, last month, my anxiety spiked. Out of nowhere, I had a massive panic attack in the middle of the night which caused me to stay in my bed for days.  All of those terrified feelings were back. I couldn’t calm down. It got so bad, I was seriously considering getting back on my meds, which you may remember was a nightmare for me.

Watching the news, scrolling on social media and seeing people’s “opinions” and conspiracies of what is actually happening in our world… it became too much for me. I was overwhelmed. Every single conversation I had was a trigger. I pulled back, stopped answering calls and made sure I kept away from news and social media feeds as much as possible.

I’ve since gotten my anxiety under control again, thanks to meditation, CBD and keeping myself distracted, but I can’t help but be concerned that this pandemic has brought back my agoraphobia. Since we don’t know how much longer we will be self-isolating, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. What will happen when our city opens up again? Will I ever feel safe? Will the pandemic just be an added layer to the fears I already had?

I wonder if anyone else is going through something similar. If so, what are you doing to make sure you get out of the house, safely? I’d love some suggestions. Feel free to comment below, or if you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly, email me.

After being diagnosed with agoraphobia, I worked so hard to get past my fears. But is the pandemic lockdown just bringing it right back?

 

 

 

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. This virus has caused so many problems, it has cost people their lifes, iobs, relationships the list is endless, as well as sadly having an impact on health and well-being x

  2. This pandemic has brought out my anxiety too. I can see how this could effect you but hope it gets easier for you!

  3. Ahh, there’s so many consequences of the coronavirus lockdowns that go unnoticed. Hope you are coping well during this time.

  4. I didn’t realize everything that agoraphobia includes. The mental health side of things is one of the hard side effects of the pandemic. We need to keep everyone safe from the virus, but it’s taking its toll in other ways, and this is one. I work for churches and with one we sound out daily prayer requests. A regular request we send out is just praying for everyone’s mental health in addition to their physical health.

  5. This must be a terrible time to be dealing with anxiety. I get so worried about the same things as well. It really is a difficult time, especially since everything is new and there are so many unknowns.

  6. It has definitely been a challenging time for everyone but I pray this time will only make use stronger together. Thank you for sharing your feelings…it’s important to express what you’re feeling esp if you deal with anxiety and it also helps to connect with those who may feel the same way and like they are going through it alone, but we’re all in this together. Stay strong.

  7. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! I’ve had many panic attacks and they’re horrible! Praying for some relief for you soon and that the pandemic doesn’t make things worse for you!

  8. I’ve actually never heard of agoraphobia before but I can imagine how it would be hard for you.

  9. I understand how you feel. I have the same anxiety too. In my city, there has been easing up of restrictions and the malls are open to the public again. As much as I would want to go there and just window shop, my fear of contracting the virus keeps me from doing so. I hope a vaccine will soon be available. This is just too much, especially for those who are already dealing with mental health issues.

  10. I’m sorry that you are experiencing this. I can’t imagine how hard it is for your right now. This pandemic is really giving everyone a hard time. I hope it will all end very soon.

  11. I’ve found that it’s certainly brought mine back. I return to work soon after 4 months shielding and I’m so, so scared!

  12. I’ve never heard about agoraphobia but I can’t immagine how hard it was for you, and it still is. I have moments when I have fears and it’s not pleasant at all.

  13. Agoraphobia!!! I should have known there was a name for this. I guess it’s more common than we might think, too! The best we can do is take it easy and not push ourselves too hard.

  14. I’m so sorry you have to through such fear… I hope when the pandemic is over, it won’t trigger it! Sending you hugs!

  15. I get occasional bouts of anxiety but nothing like what you have described. I’ve been concerned about people all over the world that are going to be affected emotionally in terrible ways. I am glad you have friends looking out for you. We should all be mindful of those around us. Everyone is struggling to some degree right now, but some so much more than others.

  16. I’m a flight attendant and when the pandemic started, this is exactly how I felt on airplanes with people. I ultimately took a voluntary leave.

  17. This was literally me to a T just a few years ago. Like you it was a 6 month progression of leaving the house and I actually ordered lunch at Sonic and stayed in the car to eat it, it was baby steps after that. So nice to have a name for it!

  18. So sorry to hear that you go through this. My anxiety has flared so many times during the quarantine and im doing my best to manage.

  19. Hi, Heather! Thank you so much for sharing your experience – I’m so sorry for what you are going through. What a crazy time this in – with ramifications we probably haven’t realized yet. When everything went on lockdown at first, this ambivert with real introverted tendencies, felt “ok,” except for what others were experiencing. For me, I started to get anxious when states started opening up, disagreeing about what to do, dissent among so many…I felt like this wasn’t a team effort anymore. As someone who is also in the high risk category for the virus, it is hard to see so many moving about while I stay home. Definitely an isolating feeling. Hang in there and know that so many of us are starting to experience issues on a myriad of levels. 🤗

  20. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. It’s certainly tough times for all of us. I can see why this pandemic can certainly make this get worse.

  21. when i was first disabled i had troubles with anxiety being home 24/7 and not able to get out and about. so thankfully i am less affected by the pandemic lockdown but i sympathize with you all.

  22. Wow, this is a really good point. I have thought a lot about the long-term mental health effects this will have on people and this is something that could possibly be very prevalent.

  23. I don’t know what it’s like to suffer from agoraphobia. I would suggest taking baby steps once your city starts to reopen and continue with what has been working for you to keep your anxiety under control.

  24. Thanks for sharing your experience with this. I really felt like I learned a lot more on this phobia.

  25. A friend of mine has suffered from severe anxiety and had to take medications. It is not easy to deal with anxieties, I found that meditation and working out help a lot.

  26. WOW. I am SO happy to have read this. Everything here is useful for my presentation on at least legalizing CBD in the Turks and Caicos. I’m trying to compel our leaders to consider how this can help so many people suffering! My mom had similar challenges. I could never get her to go anywhere with me anymore. It was so hard on me to see her like that. She passed away last year. That resulted in anxiety of my own. I use mediation, art and great books on psychology. I’m happy you’re in a better place.

  27. This is a very real thing. My Mother in law has agoraphobia to a low degree and it is aggravated by the pandemic too. Thanks for the tips to get anxiety down so it is lessened.

  28. I have a few friends who struggle with various forms of anxiety and phobias, and the pandemic has been so hard on them. It’s like it was tailor-made to induce trauma.

  29. This pandemic is bringing out the depression in me and anxiety at times. I am mostly concerned about my kids and school.

  30. So sorry to hear you are having to cope with agoraphobia. I hope you are able to live your life how you want to without having to worry about that.

  31. My girlfriend doesn’t have agoraphobia, but she is going through some major anxiety issues because of the pandemic. She’s already afraid of diseases and things, but with the pandemic, they’re becoming less “in her head”, as she says, and waaaay more real. It’s been so tough on her.

  32. I suffered a lot with anxiety during this period, and although I didn’t have agoraphobia, I can really see how this situation could trigger this for you again. I started therapy during this time and it really helped with my anxiety.