Sometimes agoraphobia is thought of as fear of crowds, or fear of the outdoors, but it’s more nuanced than that. Agoraphobia is really a fear of being in a situation where you don’t have control. It’s a fear of being in a situation you can’t easily get away from, to be “safe”. If we assume there is a safe place to begin with, and we call that space “home” (whatever it happens to look like or be), then separating from that space causes stress.
Autistic people often have agoraphobia as one aspect of their mental state.
As with everything else, this can vary from person to person. It might be that one person absolutely adores trains and therefore being at a certain train station is absolute bliss. They in essence consider that train station to be “a second home” and look forward to being there. However, they consider a shopping mall to be pure torture.
It could be that one person feels relatively safe in nature and therefore going on nature walks is relaxing. But going on a walk down city streets is very stressful, because they feel as if they’re in danger.
It’s important to understand that this is a real, tangible stressor and isn’t something that can just be “ignored”.
There are, of course, a number of coping techniques and easing techniques. While it’s not necessary to adore a supermarket, it’s generally important to be able to go there to acquire food. So for example one could learn what the quietest times of day (or night!) are and shop during those times. One could make a list ahead of time, organized by aisle, so the trip goes as quickly as possible. One can have a special favorite shirt to wear, a scent to wear, and music to play, to bring some token of comfort.
There are some things we simply have to learn to handle at some level, whether they are buying food, getting our doctor and dentist check-up, and so on. We don’t have to love them. We just have to make it through the time period.
One challenge of changes in routine like the pandemic is that they can allow us to hide from those situations. We justify the extra cost of grocery delivery. We skip dental checkups. That might be fine for a month or two, but that’s generally not something one can healthily maintain for years. So it’s important to try to find a way not to wholly become a hermit during this time period, as tempting as it might be. That will only make it that much more challenging to start up again when it’s all over.
Keep your long term wellness in mind. Find solutions that suit your own particular situations.
Image of person in window sourced from Pixabay / Tumisu