Skip to main content

Cure Agoraphobia and Reclaim Your Life in 10 Steps

I have been cured of my agoraphobia for close to 7 years now. I came up with a 10-step program that I followed to overcome my fears.

cure-agoraphobia-in-10-steps-and-reclaim-your-life

I am a recovered agoraphobic. I also suffered from anxiety/panic attacks, postpartum depression, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)—all at the same time. I have been cured of my agoraphobia for close to 7 years now.

Agoraphobia makes you a prisoner of your fear. You associate your anxiety with specific surroundings. If you feel anxious or have a panic attack at the mall, you stop going to the mall, believing that if you go there, you will trigger another panic attack. This continues until your world dwindles to your own home, and you do not want to step out for fear of triggering a panic attack.

The 10-step program I will share with you helped me to overcome agoraphobia, but the truth is that I credit my Heavenly Father for giving me my life back. I hope I can help you get your life back, too.

cure-agoraphobia-in-10-steps-and-reclaim-your-life

Step 1: Take Time to Heal Your Body

If you have agoraphobia, you have probably suffered from anxiety/panic attacks long enough to frazzle your nerves. One of the first and best things you can do for yourself is to get your body back on the path of healing.

Length of Time: 3-4 weeks before proceeding to Step 2.

Why You Need to Do This: When your body is under any stress, it will use valuable vitamins and nutrients faster than when you are calm and relaxed. Stress is very hard on your body, and when you have agoraphobia or panic attacks/anxiety for a long time, your nerves become raw, and your body will feel out of whack.

Getting on track with your nutrition, exercise, and sleep will give your body a fighting chance to return to a more relaxed and calm state. Think of this step as building a solid foundation for your recovery.

Take a daily multivitamin.

If you are not doing so already, I strongly urge you to begin taking a multivitamin with minerals. Check the expiry date on the bottle and throw it out. If it has expired, your vitamins will be less effective. I also suggest investing a little extra money into a good quality vitamin. There are many brands on the market, do a little research and see which are best for you.

Take supplements if possible.

I found that taking supplements made a huge difference in how I felt. In combination with taking a multivitamin, it made me feel more like my old self. It may do the same for you. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

Supplements that help:

  • B Complex
  • Vitamin C*
  • Vitamin E
  • Omega 3
  • Fish Oils/Cod Liver Oil
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D

* If you have a nervous stomach, as I did, you may want to eat foods high in vitamin C rather than a supplement. I found that vitamin c supplements upset my stomach.

Caffeine and Sugar

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Youmemindbody

If your diet contains caffeine and high amounts of sugar, I suggest slowly weaning yourself off them until you no longer have caffeine in your diet and you are only consuming 6 grams of sugar per serving or less.

Reducing your sugar intake will give you tremendous health benefits and stop your blood sugar levels from spiking in your body. Going cold turkey is hard on your body and may trigger higher anxiety levels and worsen things. Go slow and easy.

Having high levels of sugar in your system can make you feel anxious and jittery. Watching the amount of sugar you consume, you are helping your nerves to heal because you will be experiencing less anxiety/anxious feelings due to what you have eaten. Caffeine has the same effects and can also cause jitters and feelings of anxiety.

Vegetables are perfect for better health

Vegetables are perfect for better health

Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

You don't have to go overboard here; don't get stressed out over this. Just try adding a salad with one of your meals or an extra serving of fruit with breakfast, such as an apple.

Eat Regularly

I can't stress enough how important it is to eat three meals a day and have two snacks, one before lunch and one before dinner, to stabilize your blood sugar levels.

If you miss a meal, your blood sugar levels will drop. If they drop too low, you will experience anxiety and may trigger a panic attack. I know this because this happens if my blood sugar level drops.

Exercise

I know that finding the motivation to get out of bed or get off the sofa and exercise can be difficult, and I've been there, and I understand. Exercise boosts endorphins, putting you in a better mood and giving you more energy.

I suggest incorporating just a little exercise to start and slowly adding more.

If even the thought of any physical exercise is too much for you, do some light stretches, especially before bed. When you are anxious, your muscles tend to tense up. By doing stretches, you will help your body release that tension and help you to relax and even sleep better.

Exercises you can do in your own home:

  • Stairs, if you have any, step up and down on a sturdy box, or even a large hardcover book will work.
  • Do some sit-ups, push-ups, or squats during TV commercial breaks.
  • Watch a DVD workout in your living room.
  • Yoga
  • Skip rope
  • Run/jog on the spot
  • Callanetics
  • Pilates
  • Instead of walking around your house, try lunges forward, alternating with each leg.
  • When you do your housework like vacuuming, try doing it quicker and keep your tummy sucked in and your spine elongated.
  • Use free weights if you have them or soup cans/water bottles.
Cat nap?

Cat nap?

Get Plenty of Sleep

When you are sleeping, your body can heal, and it is the time when your brain sorts through everything that happened during the day.

Getting adequate sleep is very important for healing your body. Aim to get to bed before 11 pm (there is something about the quality of sleep you get before midnight).

Establish a set routine for yourself before you go to bed. This can include a hot bath, music, or reading before bed.

Avoid watching TV, spending time on the computer or playing video games before bed. I would also recommend avoiding physical work and staying away from sweets too close to bedtime.

If you are still drinking tea, coffee or anything with caffeine, cut yourself off before 4 pm.

Step 2: Rediscovery

"Know thyself?' If I knew myself, I'd run away." – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." - Matthew 7: 7&8

Length of Time: 1 week

Why You Need to Do This: It's necessary to start shifting your focus on things that will positively affect your life to begin to combat all the negativity and anxiety you are experiencing daily.

One of the casualties of agoraphobia is part of your soul. As with depression (postpartum or otherwise), we tend to forget the things in our life that brought us joy.

Step 2 is about asking yourself: Who am I?

This is not a question you can answer in a day. This will take some time. Discover what used to bring you happiness, joy and peace in your life. You can do this by going through old photo albums, daydreaming, and reminiscing.

Once you have rediscovered at least one or two things that you would like to do again that you can do in your own home, please find the time to do it at least two times a week.

As for any hobbies you used to do outside your home, hang onto these! You will be able to incorporate these into Step 4.

What things gave you joy that you no longer experience in your life?

  • Praying
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Watching old black and white movies
  • Acting
  • Gardening
  • Scrap-booking
  • Crafting
  • Woodworking
  • Sewing
  • Puzzles/word puzzles
  • Chess/strategy games

Step 3: Dare to Dream

"Hold fast to dreams,

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird,

That cannot fly."

― Langston Hughes

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:13

Length of Time: 1 week

Why You Need to Do This: This exercise will help you rediscover the world outside your front door and reconnect you to your dreams and goals. When you have agoraphobia, the world outside your front door may seem more like a black abyss that is big and scary. By putting onto paper your goals, you are creating your own beacon of light out there in the world for you to reach towards.

This week I want you to do some more brainstorming and come up with all the goals or dreams you have for your life. It can be as basic as wanting to finish your college degree or exotic as taking a trip to Italy. They should be things that make you excited when you think about them. Don't place restrictions on yourself or even consider if you can do it or not. Just push all your negative thoughts aside and let the sky be your limit.

There is no limit to all the dreams and goals you can come up with. Let your imagination guide you and spend a week coming up with them.

Once you are finished, you can create something called a vision or a dream board if you like. Or you can find pictures of your dreams and goals and put them on the fridge, in your vanity mirror, or anywhere you can see them daily. You can even just write down your goal with a big marker or pen and place it where you can see it.

cure-agoraphobia-in-10-steps-and-reclaim-your-life

Step 4: Find Support

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one."― C.S. Lewis

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." - Matthew 11:28 & 29

Length of Time: Ongoing

Why You Need to Do This: When you have agoraphobia, your social network gets smaller and smaller because you leave the house less and less. It's also hard to maintain friendships because sometimes people just don't understand what you are going through and think you're just not interested in their company because you never want to go out with them. You need at least one person in your life you can look to for support to help you overcome your agoraphobia.

Life in your house can be a lonely place. I know because I've been there too. Having no interactions with friends and family added to my depression. It's a bit of a vicious cycle; you feel anxious/scared, so you stay home, which in turn causes you to lose opportunities for socializing with friends and family, which then adds to your feelings of anxiousness and sadness.

Looking for a source of support when you are stuck at home is like trying to get a job when you have no job experience, and that's what you need to be hired.

My suggestion is to join an online community group or forum. They're great places to vent and interact with other people from the comfort of your own home. There are forums for moms or parents, or just for women. Find a community that you feel comfortable with, and go from there.

Even if you have friends or family you can count on for support, it's still beneficial to increase your social network, even if it's just online.

If You are Truly Alone: I want you to know that you're not. For starters, many people are going through the same thing as you. If you are a fellow HubPages author like me, drop me a line, and I will be more than happy to be your support. If you are a Christian, you have one of the best supports in Jesus Christ. He was my source of support and the reason why I was cured. Lean on Him as much as you want, and He will see you through to the end.

Step 5: The Cost of Fear

"Over time, the hurt doesn't hurt. Only regret does." -Terri Guillemets

"Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed." - Hebrews 12:12 & 13

Length of Time: A few days or up to a week

Why You Need to Do This: When you suffer from anxiety and agoraphobia, your world shrinks around you until all you have left is a tiny little bubble of just you. When you are afraid, you are very focused on yourself; what you are feeling and what your body is doing. You may not have noticed all of the things in life that have passed you by.

If you have agoraphobia, are limited to staying in your house, and think everything is OK in your life, you are in denial. You will never overcome agoraphobia until you realize that it is NOT OK to live your life in constant fear. That is not living. That's surviving.

Part One: Make the List:

It's time to make yet another list. This one is going to be painful. I want you to compose a list of all the things you have missed out on by being afraid and confined to your home. I want you to see with your own eyes how much of a toll fear has taken on your life.

How many of your children's school concerts have you missed because you were afraid to go to school?

How many job opportunities have you missed because the thought of getting on a bus or in your car to go anywhere terrified you?

How much fun have you missed out on because you haven't been able to hang out with friends or attend social gatherings?

How many beautiful days outside have you missed because you were scared to step out your front door?

What has fear robbed you of in your life?

Part Two: The Answer


Once you have made as thorough a list as possible, I want you to answer this question:

Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone to overcome your agoraphobia once and for all?

If your answer is no, I want you to take this list you made and stick it somewhere you will see it and wait a few more days before asking yourself again.

If your answer is yes, congrats!! It's not an easy question to answer, and you are ready to move on to the next step by realizing what you have lost.

My Own Denial

I spent years in denial, that's right, years. I knew I was just coping and not living, but I was too afraid to face the facts.

Deep down, I knew that one day I would have to face my fear, and it wasn't until I fully realized what I was missing out on in my life that I gained enough courage to make a change.

I wanted to live my life, not be afraid of it.

Letting go

Letting go

Step 6: Letting Go

"Without freedom from the past, there is no freedom at all..." - Krishnamurti

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32

Length of Time: 1 day or up to a week

Why You Need to Do This:

Aside from greater peace of mind, you may discover some of the triggers of your panic attacks. You may realize your feelings of insecurity, perfectionism and fears of failure (if you suffer from these as I did) didn't come out from nowhere; they are coming from either events in your past or how you deal with things emotionally now. By discovering these things and then letting them go, you will enable yourself to move forward with your life.

Traumatic Experiences

if you have experienced something traumatic in your life, the aftershocks may affect you more than the event itself and manifest days, weeks or even months after the event.

My father's death for example. He had been sick with Hepatitis C for over seven years. I knew he wouldn't live forever, and I thought I was mentally prepared for his death. After complications from a second liver transplant operation, my father passed away. I was sad and cried, but I thought I handled it OK for the most part. Five months later, I remember waking up one night shaking, sweating and having a bad panic attack. Then I had another and another, all in a row. I had no idea what had come over me until I realized that it was just my body's way of physically dealing with the loss of my dad.

People who suffer from anxiety worry greatly, as the term anxiety indicates. Worries about anything and everything begin to pile up after a while. When you hold on to painful memories and develop an unhealthy way of dealing with the stress, your body tries to find a way of letting it go physically in the form of panic attacks. Your nervous system can only handle so much.

The Backpack of Burden

Do you want to know what carrying around all these worries mentally feels like physically? Each fear you hold on to is like a weight you carry around with you, burdening yourself more and more until you are so overcome that you can no longer move forward.

Find yourself a backpack, or if you don't have one, some plastic or fabric shopping bags will do. Round up any items that have weight in your house (that are not breakable), such as soup cans, heavy books (not too heavy), full bottles of shampoo, or whatever you can find.

Now find a quiet spot in your home, or if you are by yourself, then turn off all distractions and place the backpack or bags in front of you and have all the other heavy items ready to go within reach. Think about everything you are currently worried about and place an item in a bag for every worry. Keep going until you run out of worries or the bags are full.

Now stand up, put the backpack on your back, and walk around the house for a while. If you don't have a backpack, walk around with your heavy shopping bags. How do you feel? How difficult is it to walk? Can you walk at all? Is it painful?
Consider your bags or your backpack to be your nervous system. The weights you put in it are all the worries it has to deal with daily. Even though a worry may not weigh anything literally because it is just a thought, it does weigh you down spiritually and mentally.

cure-agoraphobia-in-10-steps-and-reclaim-your-life

Letting Go

Dr. Phil once made a great analogy on his TV show. He likened trying to keep an inflated beach ball underwater to trying to control everything in your life without letting go. He said:

"All of these things that you're feeling: all the guilt, all the shame, all the anxiety, you're constantly using all your energy to hold that down. And then when you get tired, or it slips up " which is happening more lately, " you go, Oh, my God, I've got to go get all that and shove it down, because I don't know how to deal with it.' That's what you need to learn how to do."

So how do you let go?

  • Start keeping a journal and write down your feelings and thoughts daily. This will enable you to start getting them out of your head and away from yourself. This works great if you have difficulty falling asleep too.
  • Do a purge of your home one room at a time and toss out or donate items you never use and consider donating or tossing out items that hold you captive to the past and cause painful memories (do not worry about what other people think, just take control and do what you need to do).
  • On small pieces of paper, write down a negative feeling you regularly experience, such as 'fear,' and then rip up that paper in as many pieces as you can and throw it away.
  • Physical exercise (even if it's just vacuuming) can help you get rid of negative energy and help decrease your stress level.
  • Write a letter to someone in your life which caused you great pain or did something to you that you have hung on to until now (even if they are no longer living). Fully express yourself and let it out on paper. Once you are finished, destroy the letter and vow to leave what happened in your past firmly in the past and move on.
  • Listen to music that either helps you relax or makes you feel empowered.

Remember that you can do one or all of these suggestions because the more you let go, the better you will feel.

For Christians: One of the best things you can do is to pray to God and ask Him to help you identify the sources of pain and anxiety in your life and the strength and peace to let it go. This involves forgiveness, even if this person is no longer living or the event occurred when you were a child. Forgiveness is not about making what someone did OK; it's about giving the injustice, pain, and hurt to God to deal with and letting go.

Praying was one of the ways I strengthened my relationship with Christ and eased my burdens onto Him. I also prayed for the strength to forgive others who wronged me or hurt me in my life so that I could finally let go of the pain and move on with my life.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4: 6&7

"Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." - Matthew 18: 21&22

Replacing Negative Self Talk

Here are some great replacements:

  • I can't do this = How can I do this?
  • This is impossible = Where there is a will, there is a way.
  • I'm so stupid = Everyone makes mistakes. I'll do better next time.
  • I'll never (fill in the blank) = Rome wasn't built in a day either.
  • I'm such a loser = I so rock!
  • I can't do anything right = Tomorrow will be a better day!
cure-agoraphobia-in-10-steps-and-reclaim-your-life

Step 7: Facing the Bully

"If you're going through hell, keep going."- Winston Churchill

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." - Ephesians 6:13

When it comes to bullies, one of the worst things you can do is not fight back because they will continue to bully you. When you suffer from anxiety/panic attacks/agoraphobia, fear is your number one bully. You must face this bully to overcome your fear and reclaim your life.

As you know, with agoraphobia, you associate your panic attack with where you were and try to avoid that spot afterwards, believing that where you were has something to do with having the panic attack. You think that avoiding that area in the future can prevent a future panic attack.

Facing the Truth

The truth is where you were, and the fact that you had a panic attack in most cases was unrelated. The bakery did not trigger your panic attack. The mall did not cause the panic attack.

Going back to those areas where you had the panic attack as an attempt to overcome your fear is good, but that's only part of the solution. The cure is to stop being afraid of feeling afraid, to stop worrying about losing control, being perfect, being afraid of failing and so forth.

A panic attack is a combination of your body's response to having adrenaline dumped into your bloodstream and an overworked nervous system hypersensitive to your feelings at any given moment.

It's normal and doesn't kill you; it's one way your body can regulate itself after being overstimulated. That's it. When you are at the peak of your panic attack, it only lasts for a few seconds, even though it may feel like an eternity.

When you start constantly thinking about panic attacks and stay focused on every little sensation your body is feeling every minute of the day, you feed the fear you have about having a panic attack. Instead, your focus should be that your body just needed to blow off some steam, that you are OK and get your mind focused on something else (positive).

How to Stand Up to the Bully

The key to this step is not to go through the motions and say to yourself, "yeah, yeah, I know I have to deal with my fear." You have to get mad. Mad at yourself, but mostly towards the fear itself as if it were a living, breathing person who has been tormenting you for a long time.

Why a little anger? I'll let you in on a secret; it is next to impossible to be both angry at fear controlling your life AND afraid simultaneously. By that, I mean that if you're sick and tired of fear controlling your life, you will no longer be afraid of it.

If you're not at a point where you've had enough of being bullied and pushed around by fear, you are not ready to move on. You MUST come to the point where you can stand up to fear and say to it:

You no longer have the right to control my life. From this point on I will be in charge, not you.

Go back to Step 5 and look over your list of what you have missed in your life to help you. How much more are you going to give up to fear?

You can face your fear (personified as a bully) in a letter, by looking in a mirror (this is what I did) or in your journal. You can do it by visualization, by talking to a pillow or a stuffed animal, or a picture of someone you don't like; it doesn't matter how you do it, just do it.

Make the conscious decision that you no longer want to be afraid of your own body, and the next time you start feeling anxious, recognize those feelings and stop for a moment. Remember that you're not going to be pushed around by fear anymore. Stand strong in the face of that fear, and those feelings of fear will disappear, I promise you.

Step 8: Challenge Accepted!

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." - Dale Carnegie

"In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

Length of Time: Every day of your life

Why You Need to Do This: You can't overcome agoraphobia by sitting on your sofa. Every day presents a new challenge for you, and the prize is getting your life back.

The First Steps

The first thing you do after accepting your challenge is to make a small and attainable goal for yourself. For example, "Today, I will take 3 steps outside my front door!" Then do it!

Don't get too ahead of yourself and make your first challenge a walk to the library five blocks away. Take baby steps forward.

Try to get out every day as much as possible. Make each challenge a tiny bit more difficult than the last. For example, if you took five steps outside your door yesterday, try taking ten today.

Always, always, celebrate every success you have.

The What ifs and the Yeah Buts

It sounds like a book title by the children's author Roald Dahl or Shel Silverstein, doesn't it?

When it came to self-talk, one of the most common lines I would say to myself was, "What if?" As in, what if when I get on the bus, I start to have a panic attack? What if I feel scared in the grocery store? At first, my response was always, "Oh no," followed by a big rush of anxious thoughts and a feeling of dread.

Then there were the yeah buts. I would tell myself, "I should go to the store and pick up some more milk," and "Yeah, but I might have a panic attack while I'm in the store," would follow shortly after.

Sound familiar?

When it comes to What ifs and Yeah Buts, you have to turn them on their head like you do the negative self-talk. How do you do that? Like this:

  • What if I start to have a panic attack while I'm at the store = What if I get to the grocery store and enjoy being out of the house and maybe even find some great deals too?
  • What if I have a panic attack while I'm walking to the library? = What if I enjoy my walk outside and see some people I know?
  • I want to take a course. Yeah, but I might suck at it and look stupid = yeah, but I might discover that SQL isn't my thing and what course might work better for me.
  • I want to go downtown to that fabulous new clothing boutique. Yeah, but I might have a panic attack while I'm in there = yeah but I might not be afraid and have a great outing, find some fabulous clothes and have fun.
  • You get the idea. Turn the negative question into a positive question. It's time to stop automatically assuming that everything you do or try will result in feeling anxious or having a panic attack. Instead, you may enjoy yourself and have a good time! In fact, by focusing on all the positive things that could happen, the chances of those positive things coming to fruition go up 100%.

Further Suggestions For Success

  • Pick a time of the day when you feel your best to step outside and complete your daily challenge.
  • Relax and stretch before stepping out. This will reduce any tension in your shoulders or elsewhere and help you feel less anxious.
  • As much as possible, try to get outside every day. The success you had the day before will give you an extra boost of encouragement to face your fears the next day.
  • Don't start your challenges if you are under the weather or dealing with something very stressful. Wait until you have your plate clear as much as possible before moving forward.
  • Stop negative self-talk and think positive thoughts instead.
  • Have a buddy you can call or text to give extra encouragement if you need it, especially once you venturing out further from your home.
  • Try listening to music you like or a lecture or the radio on headphones while you are out if you find it more comforting.
  • Remember that you will have setbacks and days you won't be able to do it. DO NOT beat yourself up over any setbacks!! Recovery from agoraphobia is always two steps forward and 1 step back.
  • Take pictures with you that give you strength. They can be of your family or nature or friends, whatever inspires you! Look to them when you need a boost of encouragement.
  • Reward yourself for each victory over fear, no matter how small it is. All victories are important!
  • Finally, if you are Christian, pray to the Lord before stepping out. If you don't know what to ask for, ask for strength and encouragement and pray for His Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen you.

A Tale of Two Banks

Imagine that inside of you are two banks. One is the Bank of Negativity, and the other is the Positive Bank, or as I like to call it, the Victory Bank.

Every time that you have negative thoughts that result in anxiety or fear so that you can't do certain things, you deposit them at the Bank of Negativity. When you have agoraphobia, your bank account at the Bank of Negativity is full. You are their favourite customer! When you deposit at this bank, you don't earn interest on it; they take interest from you in the form of anxiety, sleeplessness, frustration, despair, etc.

Here is where your daily challenges to overcome fear come in; Every time you set a goal for yourself (no matter how small) and succeed, you deposit it at the Victory Bank. The Victory Bank does not distinguish between small and big deposits. Each victory is worth the same, for the most part. Walking 15 steps from your front door and walking to the library and back are worth the same. So the quality of deposits doesn't count as much as the quantity. The more deposits you make, the more interest you will make.

What is the interest at the Victory Bank? Self-esteem, inner strength, peace, joy and happiness are only a few. At the Victory Bank, they pay you the interest; they don't take it. Even better, every withdrawal from the Bank of Negativity becomes a deposit you make at the Victory Bank. How great is that?