“Maybe my time’s running out, but at least I’m living. And if that’s what it is for you, being here inside where nothing ever happens, where you think you’re safe, then stay. Stay right here and you let me know how that works for you. Because I’m guessing it’ll never be enough.” ― John Corey Whale
There are times of discovery for me when I realize that the extent of damage that mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can cause. Recently I came face-to-face with the extreme case of a man in years who had not left his house, had no family or friends watching and whose agoraphobia was so bad that he hadn’t left his house in years. He died, and his body was not found in his house for three days.
It hit me in the face that there are a whole group of lost people who have limited or no contact with the outside world and do not seek any help, both personally and professionally. Agoraphobia is based in a fear of open space but has also been known to involve a fear of crowds and being outside alone (McIntosh, 2017). Someone with agoraphobia experiences panic attacks when outside the home, which continues to drive them back into their house. About 1.8 million adult Americans have agoraphobia. That’s about 8% of the people. Not everyone can’t leave their house and medicine and therapy have been known to work but that’s if they leave to get help.
With the onset of being able to purchase about any item on Amazon and the internet and now with groceries being deliverable, a person with extreme agoraphobia has little need to leave their house and starts to avoid leaving. In a study of the severity of agoraphobia, 40.6% of those suffering with the phobia said it was at a Serious level, not a mild or moderate level (“NIMH>>Agoraphobia,” 2017). I came into contact with this once during a time I was leading a group meeting at a local library for anxiety and depression. 12 people signed up and only 11 showed up. I didn’t think anything of it until I got home and saw a note from the person who didn’t make it to the meeting. She said:
“I’m sorry I wasn’t at the meeting. I drove all the way to the library and just couldn’t get out of my car.”
Before that point, I never knew that agoraphobia was so debilitating that it could truly keep you from getting the help you need. This person obviously wanted to get help and even drove to the meeting location, but panic and the phobia kept her from leaving her car to get help. So, this is a lost group of people that are suffering alone and in silence. It is proven that agoraphobia can be reduced, if not cured with medicine and/or therapy. Yet, to get that help, the person must leave their house.
The Mayo Clinic has a list of some risk factors to look out for (“Agoraphobia – Symptoms and causes,” 2017):
- A history of panic disorders and other phobias
- Using avoidance and having fear when having a panic attack
- Stressful event in your life, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, or a trauma such as being attacked or abused
- Being anxious or nervous
- Having a genetic family history of agoraphobia
Many of us will experience some form of agoraphobia during our lifetime. But we must realize it and realize these people are lost, trapped in their homes from this phobia. Do you know your neighbors? Is there anyone you have never seen around you? We must take care of each other. It seems hard to believe that someone could be so lost and trapped, but it happens to more people than we realize. If you are one, call your local hospital to get help. The first step is getting out of the house and going somewhere for help. I just fear that some people, like my neighbor, are too afraid to take the first step.
Agoraphobia – Symptoms and causes. (2017, November 18). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355987
Legg, T. (2017, December 20). Agoraphobia: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and outlook. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/162169.php
NIMH » Agoraphobia. (2017, November). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/agoraphobia.shtml