How to Overcome the Fear of Leaving Your Home
Feeling afraid to leave your home is often an indicator of an anxiety disorder called agoraphobia. Generally, it develops when you suffer one or more anxiety attacks outside of the home. Or, it may be the result of experiencing another unpleasant event outside. In any case, you end up avoiding the situation by staying at home for fear that it’ll happen again.
The main problem with this disorder is that it gets increasingly worse. It begins with the idea that when you go out you might suffer anxiety or another uncomfortable incident, so you’re limited to going to places close by and known to you. Later, your fear grows due to your avoidance of leaving the house, which produces more anxiety. Hence, a vicious cycle ensues in which your irrational beliefs and fear are constantly reinforced.
Fear of leaving the home
Agoraphobia isn’t the opposite of claustrophobia nor is it a fear of closed spaces. It’s the fear of leaving your home, of being in situations or going to places where it’s difficult for you to find help or escape from.
Deep down, when you suffer from agoraphobia, you fear being in situations or environments that you can’t control. Therefore, you feel helpless, and begin to experience anxiety, which can lead to a panic attack.
The fear of leaving home or agoraphobia is associated with various fears about what might happen when you’re outside. Among them is the fear of having a heart attack, not having help, fainting, dying, making a fool of yourself, or not being able to escape.
The problem is that these fears are so intense that, once outside, you experience symptoms of anxiety and interpret them as a dangerous situation. Therefore, you’ll tend to avoid leaving the house at all. This, in turn, makes you more afraid the next time you go out. In fact, it creates an increasingly reinforced circle of anxiety with less freedom for you.
In addition, the condition can be aggravated by being exposed to certain news or information about your surroundings. For example, hearing or reading about certain dangers or violent events can make you feel even more afraid, reinforcing your idea that leaving your home is dangerous.
As with any anxiety disorder, with agoraphobia, you experience a set of physical symptoms. Among the most common are the following:
- Chest pain.
- Feelings of suffocation.
- Nausea or other digestive system discomforts.
- Increased heart rate.
- Sweating or shaking.
In addition, you might experience the following psychological symptoms.
- The fear of being alone.
- Fear of not being able to escape.
- Fear of losing control.
- Dependence on other people.
- Feelings of estrangement from others.
- Feelings of hopelessness.
- Derealization or feeling that the environment is unreal.
- Depersonalization or feeling of separation from your own body.
- Agitation or irritability.
- Avoidance of social situations.
- Staying at home for a long time.
How to overcome the fear of leaving your home
If you’re suffering from agoraphobia, the best way to overcome it is to go to psychological therapy. There, the beliefs that surround your fear will be adequately addressed. Furthermore. you’ll learn exposure strategies in a controlled way.
On the other hand, if your fear is only mild and doesn’t meet the necessary criteria to be classed as agoraphobia, you can perform a series of exercises to help overcome it.
Relaxation and breathing exercises
Relaxation is essential in the treatment of anxiety and to reduce activation in any situation. These techniques allow you to release tension and calm your mind. In this way, you’re able to take a more enlightening perspective and face situations with a lower level of anxiety.
Express fears and dismantle them
Fear is generated by a series of intrusive, negative, and, generally, irrational thoughts. Therefore, it’s important to verbalize your thoughts and communicate your feelings. This allows you to analyze the situation and know what ideas of yours are specifically generating or reinforcing your fear.
Once you’ve identified them, it’s extremely useful to dismantle these beliefs, either on your own or with help. This means you’ll take a more rational perspective and, more than likely, your fear will diminish.
Learn the self-instruction technique
This psychological technique consists of learning to give instructions to yourself in a certain situation. For example, create a series of comments for you to tell yourself when you have an anxiety attack.
Comments like “Nothing serious is going to happen to me”, “I can take care of myself”, “My anxiety is only temporary and it’ll pass”, “I can relax and continue what I was doing” or “It’s happened to me before and I’m still alive, so there’s nothing to worry about”.
Train your imagination
Imagining yourself facing the situations you dread can be extremely helpful if done repeatedly. To do this in a relaxed way, you have to visualize yourself walking down the street or going to places that make you feel anxious.
You can make a list of situations that make you afraid. Then, order them from less to greater intensity and work through them in an orderly way in your imagination.
When you imagine the situation, you must visualize yourself facing all eventualities, including experiencing an anxiety attack. This strategy will allow you to dismantle your beliefs, by seeing yourself and feeling capable of controlling them. In addition, it will help you to find emotional and behavioral resources to cope with your fear and the situations you’re afraid of.
Once you’ve carried out the exercises in imagination, you can move on to the real exposure. You must do it gradually, starting with a few minutes and lengthening the time in each exposure a little more. As with the previous exercise, you can prepare a list of situations for you to gradually face.
It’s important to begin the exposure in an optimal state of relaxation. You should also try not to escape when your anxiety increases.
To do this, try not to focus on the symptoms and remember to repeat to yourself that you’re able to control the situation. Relax and remember that nothing bad’s going to happen, you only need a moment to breathe.
Get your life back
In addition to these specific steps, it’s important to get back into your routine, staying focused on everything that needs to be done out there. It might help you to take walks in quiet places, and meet with friends, etc. Also, avoid taking stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol, as they can lead to an alert state that’ll aggravate your anxiety.
Above all, be patient. Overcoming the fear of leaving your home isn’t an easy task. However, with small efforts, you can accomplish terrific things, like getting your life back, being in charge of how you feel, and organizing your time.
However, remember that if you don’t feel capable of doing it yourself and your anxiety continues to increase, go to a mental health specialist to overcome it.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Bados López, A. (2001). Tratamientos psicológicos eficaces para la agorafobia. Psicothema, 13(Número 3), 453-464. Recuperado a partir de https://reunido.uniovi.es/index.php/PST/article/view/7899