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Old 06-14-2010, 09:51 AM   #1
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Agoraphobia - Please Help

I've struggled with anxiety and depression on and off for years, and for a while things really seemed to be getting better. Unfortunately, over the past two years, something new has happened. I notice that I have developed agoraphobia. I haven't always been this way, and it's really affecting my life and making me feel miserable.

There is one very obvious trigger that has affected me. I have not been abused, but I have had some uncomfortable encounters recently. I used to take lunch breaks from my workplace to go to the gym, which was walking distance. On my way over to the gym, I would frequently get approached by men who hit on me and made inappropriate comments or licked their lips at me. Although nobody touched me, it really made me uncomfortable, especially since it happened often. At the gym, I've also had a few people follow me and watch me, making me feel uncomfortable. One time in particular, after buying some lunch, someone actually chased me. I do not live in a bad area, but I seem to catch bad moments recently. It scares me and makes me so anxious and nervous.

Since then, I typically stay in for my lunch breaks. I have purchased expensive upgrade parking so I can park in a garage attached to my building and not have to park outside, where people can approach me. I quit my gym membership, so I have avoided a lot of those situations. I usually bring my own lunch, so that helps too.

Now I have developed trouble running errands, such as going to the grocery store. I try to avoid busy days, like the weekends, because it makes me feel more comfortable. I literally feel like people are looking at me all the time, standing too close to me, and I feel like shopping carts are coming at me from all angles to trap me in. I used to open up about this to others and just made a joke about how I hate the grocery store and feel trapped by all the carts, but in reality, it's really hurting me and crippling me. Deep inside, it's no joke, but I get embarrassed to share this with others. Sometimes I DO receive inappropriate looks, but often times it's just me being paranoid. I do feel that people often accidentally touch me, which I hate, but I want to learn to just be annoyed with it rather than panicking about it and letting it affect me so much.

I feel that the more I try to ease myself into busy areas, the WORSE I get. I feel a million times better when I avoid super busy places. I try to find the best times to go places, best days, etc. I really enjoy shopping, but now I prefer shopping online because I feel more comfortable that way, but now I've been having problems with the post office and what not, so it's such a pain.

I used to take Prozac for my anxiety, but it was making me feel pretty tired to the point that it was hard to function. I did really well with it at first, but my side effects seemed to get worse. I have a Xanax prescription and only take it as needed. It's a low dosage. I have tried taking my Xanax when going to the store and it does help some, but not a cure or anything. I also don't want to become dependent on it. I haven't seen a counselor or therapist recently, but I would be open to this. I used to see one in the past. The first therapist did not help me much, but the second (who was actually in training and a recent graduate) was great and very helpful.

Can any of you offer any assistance/advice on what might be good for me to try? Have any of you dealt with agoraphobia and battled it? I would greatly appreciate any help! Right now I do okay, so I want to prevent it from getting worse. Sometimes when things are bad, I will literally hide in a corner and try to get away from everything while I have a panic attack, but other times I can manage to go out and feel half-way decent. I do fine when at work, although I have plenty of times I am not comfortable, but I keep things in control. With friends, I do fine. I do fine with people I know and trust. I generally feel safe while out with a group as well.

I'm a young woman and I do like to dress cute, but I do not do anything to draw attention to myself. My typical outfit is a dress shirt and slacks for work. I wouldn't consider this to be a flashy outfit or anything that would cause inappropriate comments. I'm a very positive and sweet person, but I feel that my personality has become much more shy and I avoid looking at people now. I am just not as friendly and outgoing as I can be! This past year has been a stressful one, so I know this does not help. I am hoping things slow down some. My mother in law recently passed away after a battle with cancer, so this was a hard time. Just wanted to share some background info. that might help!

Thank you!!