Anxiety & Panic, Postnatal Depression, Raising Awareness, Uncategorized

Scared to leave the house – Agoraphobia a step by step guide to overcoming it

First things first, agoraphobia isn’t as easy as step by step guide and you’re well again. It takes time, it’s small steps, and it is challenging BUT you can overcome it, I promise. Please do see your own healthcare professional for advice and guidance if you are struggling.

I developed agoraphobia after the birth of my first baby. It was just one of the lovely, maternal mental illnesses I developed but, along with Maternal OCD, it probably had the

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I Struggled to leave my home

biggest impact on my day to day life. I had an overwhelming fear about something bad happening to my baby or myself, my anxiety escalated to a point where I just didn’t go out anymore, and eventually I couldn’t get myself out my front door, even being alone in the house caused panic attacks.

The best thing my therapist taught me was FACE a form of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is an exercise which helps us face our fears, and challenge the anxiety. It’s not easy, it goes against everything your anxiety is telling you to do, but with practice it can really help.

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This exercise ‘FACE’ helped me overcome my anxiety 

Step 1 – Identify what you would like to accomplish.

Let’s take a moment to think about what it is you would like to do? Eventually the main goal will be to leave the house, go about your day with a little anxiety as possible. Let’s start with a small, achievable goal. Such as opening the front door, or walking to the end of your front garden. Don’t put a huge amount of pressure on yourself, start small and build up. It’s small steps which will lead to great progress.

Step 2 – What Action do you need take?

What steps do you need to take to complete this goal? Break it down into manageable chunks. Maybe you could ask a loved one, friend or someone you trust to do this with you. When you think about doing taking this step, imagine a positive outcome. Take your time, and don’t pressure yourself. Do what you can and feel able to. If you can’t do it, that’s ok. Try again when you feel able. Be gentle with yourself.

Step 3 – Coping Strategies

Use the tools that help you, whether that be breathing techniques for anxiety, mindfulness, positive thoughts/affirmations or exercises like STOPP. Whatever helps you through this step, do that.
I would practice breathing techniques, (in for 7 seconds through your nose, pause, out for 11 seconds) and I would sit with the uncomfortable feelings until they passed. This was something which took time, once I was able to leave the house and walk around the block, I would then practice sitting with the uncomfortable feeling and continuing my walk rather than panicking and running home.

Step 4 – Evaluate

How did it go? What would you do differently? What went well? Do you need to try this step again (I would recommend practicing this step again until it feels less panicky, then pushing yourself a little further next time, eg walk a short distance down the street and back again, whatever you are comfortable with)

Remember to praise yourself! You are amazing, and you are so brave challenging these thoughts.
If you don’t manage to get to do the task you set yourself, thats ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re not failure, each time you try you are a step closer to beating this. Be kind to yourself, practice self care and try again when you are ready, if it’s too big of a task, break it down even further and build up slowly.

Take any support your healthcare professional can offer, this is just one exercise which helped me, but there’s other techniques out there.

Give it time. You will get there. Keep trying and remember to practice self care. You deserve it, and you can do this!

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