My Anxiety Plan for Agoraphobia
The following strategies are designed for you to use as you begin to tackle Agoraphobia (with or without Panic Disorder). These strategies are best used for adults with mild-moderate signs of this type of anxiety. For individuals with more severe symptoms or who have been diagnosed with Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder, we recommend treatment with a mental health professional, although MAP strategies can be used at home to support your therapy work.
Step 1. Helping you become an expert on anxiety
This is an important first step, as the information outlined in this step can help you understand what is happening when you experience anxiety. Learning that the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing have a name -anxiety- and that millions of other people also have anxiety, can be a great relief. To become an expert on anxiety you will want to read about the facts and learn important information. The following links can provide you with facts and information: ABC's of Anxiety: Understanding How Anxiety Works & Anxiety 101: What You Need to Know About Anxiety & Anxiety 102: More Facts & Fight-Flight-Freeze & When Anxiety Becomes a Problem: What’s Normal and What's Not
Step 2: Learning the facts about agoraphobia
Reading some of the information outlined on the agoraphobia main page can help you to feel more in control of what is happening to you, and therefore less afraid. After all, knowledge is power.
The following list includes some facts and highlights common to individuals with Agoraphobia:
- Adults with agoraphobia avoid situations where they think they will be unable to escape or find help, should they have a panic attack or experience unwanted anxiety.
- Common situations include: Using public transportation (e.g. bus, train, car), being out in the open, being in enclosed spaces (e.g. elevators, tunnels), standing in line or being in a crowd, and being outside alone.
- Some individuals with agoraphobia are able to manage feared situations as long as someone else is with them, but even if this is the case, they may still have agoraphobia.
- In the beginning, adults find that when they avoid a situation, right away they feel better. This makes it easier to avoid more situations in the future (who doesn’t want to feel better?!), but quickly this escalates to avoiding lots of situations most of the time. These adults become stuck in a pattern of avoidance, which rapidly narrows their opportunities to live a full life.
Step 3: Creating your Agoraphobia MAP
The best way to help deal with agoraphobia with or without panic disorder, is to have access to tools that can evaluate and challenge your fear of situations and related worries. These tools are intended to increase your ability to tolerate anxiety, rather than to eliminate anxiety. Anxiety exists everywhere, and therefore it is an illusion to believe we can eliminate the source and experience of anxiety. It is far more effective to have tools to tolerate and cope, rather than to control and escape. For agoraphobia with or without panic disorder, you might want to use any or all of the following tools to create your MAP: My Anxiety Plan. These tools are listed in a recommended order, although proceeding in this order will depend on your needs and interests. Challenge Negative Thinking and Facing Your Fears will be two of the most important tools for you to use to gain relief from your symptoms.
- Calm Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Helpful Thinking for Agoraphobia
- Challenging Negative Thinking
- Cognitive Coping Cards
- Facing Your Fears: Exposure
- Reassurance Seeking
- Partner Assisted Rituals
- Safety Behaviours
- Rewarding Bravery
- Tolerating Uncertainty
- Relapse Prevention
- Returning to Routines and Pleasant Events
- Applied Tension Technique
Final point: Although increased knowledge and the many tools available on this website can be very effective in helping you to manage your agoraphobia with or without panic disorder, sometimes it is not enough. Some adults have very severe anxiety, and despite all their best efforts, they might still be struggling daily with anxiety symptoms. If this is the case for you, we recommend you seek professional help through a consultation session with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychologist/mental health worker.