Anyone who has lived with agoraphobia knows the sense of helplessness that grips the soul when confronted with any situation that threatens to bring on a full blown panic attack, triggering responses that range from feeling as if the mind is slipping away to sensing that death is about to occur. Often, signs that you are conquering agoraphobia come in little ways as you move forward with counseling, medication, nutrition, and other strategies that help you reclaim your life. Here are five signs that are strong indications you are winning the battle.
Sign #1 – Evening walks are relaxing again rather than being filled with fear. Agoraphobia shrinks your world, making it hard to step outside your door. When you notice that you can make it to the end of the drive, then down the block, and finally walk around your neighborhood for ten or fifteen minutes, that’s a sure sign you are getting better.
Sign #2 – You can navigate a supermarket without your head swimming and your grip on reality slipping away. Remember how the combination of music, cartwheels squeaking and scanners beeping used to be impossible to filter out? Lately, they are not so bad, at least for ten or fifteen minutes. You can actually get in, buy what you need, check out, and be back to the car without it taking every ounce of your strength to get through the ordeal.
Sign #3 – It’s possible to eat out again. Like supermarkets, restaurants can be torturous for agoraphobics. The combination of piped music, clattering silverware, and the general din of people talking and laughing while they eat is so overpowering that it physically hurts. When you notice that it’s possible to start filtering some of that noise out once again – and there is more interest in what’s on your plate than in speculating if you will still be alive at the end of the meal – that’s a sure sign you are moving in the right direction.
Sign # 4 – Sunlight feels good again. For many agoraphobics, being out in the sun is unbearable, partially because it means you’re – well – outside. As the agoraphobia retreats, you notice that instead of reacting like a vampire when a ray of sun touches your face, you actually want to stop and savor the warmth.
Sign # 5 – Going places is less of an ordeal to live through, and more of something that you really want to do. As more places become welcoming again, there are those first stirrings of recapturing the anticipation and delight you used to feel when going to see a movie, take in a ball game, or eat out with friends. Over time, those positive feelings become stronger and stronger, pushing away those fears that once made you avoid social situations at all cost.
Getting over agoraphobia is not some nifty one-two-three step process. Many people require years of therapy, medication, and the support of loved ones to emerge from the ordeal and start living again. Make the most of every little victory along the way, and celebrate it to the max. Above all, never give up hope that things will be better. In time, the agoraphobia will be gone and life will be good again.