Understanding agoraphobia is the first step toward recovery. However, the average person with agoraphobia takes at least one full year to get diagnosed and even longer to learn enough about agoraphobia to start recovering.
Here are four reasons why:
1) Most people don’t know what is wrong with them at first. The symptoms of agoraphobia, especially during panic attacks, feel like those of a physical illness. For example, when you are hyperventilating it is easy to suspect something is wrong with your lungs. When your heart is racing it is easy to think something is wrong with your heart. When you are sick at your stomach day after day it is easy to think something is wrong with your digestive system. Plus, one symptom of agoraphobia is to “scan” your body for physical symptoms and worry about every little twinge as if it may be a major life-threatening illness.
2) Many doctors dont know how to diagnose agoraphobia. People with agoraphobia commonly visit a succession of doctors trying to find a diagnosis. Most doctors will listen to physical complaints and run tests. They will report that the tests are negative, but often fail to suggest the presence of agoraphobia due to a lack of training. Doctors who can tell that your symptoms are caused by a panic attack may still not be able to tell what type of anxiety disorder you have or provide information about it.
3) Most people go through a period of denial. If finally faced with a diagnosis of a psychological disorder like agoraphobia, the human reaction is to throw up defenses and deny it. Most of us dont think of ourselves as the type of person who would have a “mental problem” or “psychological disorder.” Psychological problems carry a stigma in society that physical illnesses and injuries do not.
The average person tends to consider a psychological disorder as personal weakness or lack of will power. People are more likely to treat a psychological disorder like agoraphobia as your fault than they would in the case of a physical illness or injury. If you were diagnosed with cancer, no one would stand over your bed during chemotherapy and question your will power, work ethic, or desire to go to work or school. But try having agoraphobia. People will do exactly that. Since no one wants to be viewed that way, it is hard for most people to admit to anyone they have agoraphobia.
4) Most people are reluctant to seek treatment for a psychological disorder because of the stigma. Even people who are able to admit to themselves that they have a psychological disorder might still have trouble admitting it to anyone else. Its hard enough to try to explain irrational fear and panic attacks to your friends and family, and even harder to seek out professional help.
A word to the wise – the best course of action to take if you start experiencing panic attacks or the symptoms of agoraphobia is:
– See a doctor to rule out medical problems.
– Consult a mental health professional to get a diagnosis and/or begin treatment.
– Learn everything you can about your disorder.
Knowledge is the first step to recovery and the sooner you get started on your recovery from agoraphobia the faster it will be.
On the flip side, the longer it takes you to get diagnosed and admit that you have a disorder – the more agoraphobia has a chance to take root, and the more difficult your recovery may be.
If you suspect that you or someone you know might have agoraphobia, dont take a year to start learning everything you can about it. Start today. You can learn more by reading or asking questions on The Agoraphobia Resource Center website at: “http://www.agoraphobia.ws”>www.agoraphobia.ws