How do I Overcome a Fear of Going Outside?

Dan Cavallari

The fear of going outside, known as agoraphobia, can cause isolation and despair among its sufferers. A person who has a fear of going outside is at risk of negatively affecting personal relationships, career, and mental well-being. The anxiety associated with going outside into the world can cause a person to become withdrawn, isolated, depressed, and even suicidal, so it is important to treat a fear of going outside before these negative effects become too serious. Professional help from a doctor is almost certainly necessary, possibly including medication.

Agoraphobia is often exacerbated by depression and chronic anxiety.
Agoraphobia is often exacerbated by depression and chronic anxiety.

So many different routines, locations, or events can cause agoraphobia that it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint an exact cause. Stress at work can build up and lead to a fear of going outside; a person who associates the source of his or her stress with the outside world may make changes to avoid that world altogether, and since the workplace is such a common cause of stress and anxiety, sometimes the root cause of the fear of going outside starts there. Traumatic events can also trigger agoraphobia, and people who experience such events may become reclusive, eventually leading to agoraphobia.The first step in countering agoraphobia is to recognize where the fear originates, and understanding the root cause.

A person with a fear of going outside have experienc a panic attack upon leaving their chosen safe zone.
A person with a fear of going outside have experienc a panic attack upon leaving their chosen safe zone.

Abuse or bullying can cause anxiety in some sufferers. This may trigger a fear of being exposed in public, and the sufferer may seek out a safe zone, most likely at home or in a certain room within the home. If the sufferer leaves that safe zone, he or she may experience a panic attack or a sense of extreme discomfort or fear. The sufferer may be worried about his or her own physical well-being, but just as often, he or she worries about being insulted or ridiculed for his or her behavior.

A person who associates the source of her or his stress with the outside world may avoid that world altogether.
A person who associates the source of her or his stress with the outside world may avoid that world altogether.

The longer the agoraphobia goes untreated, the more likely it is that the fear will become worse. Such isolation can lead to, or be caused by, personality disorders that must be diagnosed and treated by a professional. A combination of therapy and medication can often lead to successes in overcoming agoraphobia, and treatment should be sought immediately after the first symptoms are recognized. Hypnotherapy has also been used to help treat agoraphobia, though the technique is considered controversial and unproven. Anti-depressants can treat depression, sometimes consequently lessening the severity of agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia typically leads to isolation.
Agoraphobia typically leads to isolation.
A traumatic event may cause a person to be fearful of going outside.
A traumatic event may cause a person to be fearful of going outside.
Those with agoraphobia can develop nervousness and even panic attacks when in either crowded places or in vast, open spaces.
Those with agoraphobia can develop nervousness and even panic attacks when in either crowded places or in vast, open spaces.
Abuse or bullying can cause anxiety in some sufferers.
Abuse or bullying can cause anxiety in some sufferers.

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Discussion Comments

anon1003523

I have an intense fear of even opening my door, let alone going outside and into the world at all. It has gotten so bad that I avoid looking outside or stepping foot out the door because I'm scared and I get panic attacks when I go to do so when I am forced to via an obligation.

It all started with my sleep schedule and spotty health ruining a lot of things. Every day I would go to bed late or not feel well, the weather would be absolutely fantastic- mild, warm, calm wind...my favorite everything. And I'd feel like I missed out on an awesome, ideal day again by not feeling well, going to bed too late, needing way too much sleep because I have bad fatigue issues. But when I would get a rare good day where I finally felt 100% and totally clear of my grogginess and had tons of energy, good mood, etc., it would suddenly turn on me after a string of missed nice days day after day after day, and it would finally be super terrible out, with gusty winds, cold as heck, just awful. If that happened on any of the days I wasn't feeling well, I would have felt a lot better and relieved I'm not missing out on anything.

Well, this pattern has continued for 2 years and it has gotten to the point of unmanageable. I can't go outside and get the result I won't ever, but instead will do the extreme opposite and what I'm fearing is going to happen will once again be manifested before my eyes. So at this point, it has been so many times that I get severe panic at opening my door and leaving to go outside and go anywhere.

It has ruined my relationship with my boyfriend. And it all just seems so unnecessarily cruel and unfair and that this phobia wouldn't have developed if this weird horrible clockwork timing didn't go opposite every. Single. Time. So now the principle of it absolutely freaks me out.

When I feel good and I see a wind storm starting to pick up once again, I get panic attacks. And when I feel like total crap, and I see everything becoming nice, still and beautiful out, I get panic attacks. I can't believe this could have happened so many times. Basically every day for 2 years. It is too much to handle and it has ruined my life and me as a person completely. It breaks my heart to an indescribable degree.

bythewell

I feel like I have a touch of this sometimes and it really does get worse the more I let it get out of control. I don't have a regular job so I don't often have to leave the house except to run errands or see friends. If I don't schedule that kind of activity regularly, I tend to start dreading it. I don't really understand why. It just seems to be too hard to step outside or to interact with people.

Of course, when I actually do go outside I enjoy myself and feel fine afterwards. I think it's just a matter of getting used to the world being one way or another.

And I only feel a very mild anxiety. I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who has full blown agoraphobia. It must be very difficult to overcome.

KoiwiGal

@Fa5t3r - It really depends on the individual person. I certainly don't think it would be helpful in the treatment of anxiety to make the person feel like they are doing something wrong or that they are doing something on purpose for sympathy or anything like that.

But you also want people to feel responsible for their own lives. Sometimes being tough on themselves is the breakthrough they need in order to go forward. It is a very individual thing and that's why it should be treated as such.

Fa5t3r

For me, one of the first things I have to do in order to start to feel better about this kind of thing is to forgive myself for being afraid in the first place. I tend to get very annoyed with what I see as a weakness and try to bully myself into doing whatever it is that I'm afraid of. Sometimes this will work but more often it will only make me feel worse and more afraid, so I will be less likely to do what I need to do.

If you are having symptoms of anxiety attacks, you don't have to feel like you are weak or lazy or anything like that. Forgive yourself.

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