Life under coronavirus lockdown may have brought up all kinds of issues for you, and you may have experienced all kinds of emotions. Now that we’re beginning to see signs of easing out of lockdown, other feelings and fears may start to emerge.
As psychotherapists and counsellors, we’re noticing that the thought of entering the world again and interacting with others is beginning to trigger fear and anxiety in some people. Having become used to staying indoors, avoiding social contact, and respecting social distancing measures, rather than wanting to break for freedom, some people are just too scared to go out. Even to the point of questioning whether they have agoraphobia.
Yet there is a difference between full-blown agoraphobia and just feeling reticent about mixing with people again and feeling scared of catching Covid-19. Agoraphobia is a mental health condition categorised as an anxiety disorder in the DSM 5, the manual that psychiatrists use to diagnose patients.
The criteria to be diagnosed with agoraphobia include:
1. A marked fear or anxiety about two or more of the following five situations:
- Using public transport.
- Being in open spaces.
- Being in enclosed spaces, such as theatres, shops and cinemas.
- Standing in a queue or being in a crowd.
- Being outside the home alone.
2. People go out of their way to avoid these situations, or otherwise find themselves enduring them with marked distress. They may feel anxious about having a panic attack or panic-like symptoms. They may sometimes need a companion to accompany them.
3. The agoraphobic situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety. The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the agoraphobic situations and to the sociocultural context.
4. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting six months or more.
5. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.
6. The anxiety or phobic avoidance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder.
7. The individual fears or avoids these situations because of thoughts that escape might be difficult. They may also fear that help might not be available in the event of developing panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms.
If you believe you may have agoraphobia symptoms – related to coronavirus or otherwise – then the first step is to speak to your GP, who may recommend medication.
You may also choose to work with a psychotherapist, who can support you with a treatment plan to understand what triggers your symptoms, and to identify ways to reduce your anxiety and to increase self-care strategies to soothe your stress.
If you’d like to speak to a professional about your fears about agoraphobia or other mental health issue then do get in touch. Our reception team will be able to match you with a therapist who’s right for you. We’re offering online and phone sessions during this Covid-19 period. Call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected].