A diagnosis of agoraphobia can be both a welcome relief, the gratitude that someone finally understands what is happening, and a devastating blow, the realization that there are no quick fixes. When a loved one faces this, it can be challenging to know what to do to support them. Continue reading for five ways in which you can do just that without appearing judgmental or a know-it-all.
- Be a listener
Sometimes there is a place for merely listening. Your loved one may struggle to articulate what is going through their head at any particular moment, but just being there and listening to them try is essential. Whether they are able to see you in person to talk face to face or they can pick up their phone and dial your number, both methods are equally useful. And let’s not forget 2020’s favorite, Zoom. This combines the two as you can see one another’s facial expressions and body language while not leaving the comfort and safety of your own home. Just listen; there may be no answers right at that moment in time.
- Educate yourself
For some people, they hear the term ‘agoraphobia’ and assume it is the fear of open spaces and not wanting to leave home. However, it is far more complicated than that. For some sufferers, they are able to step outside their front door and visit certain places. However, for others, they cannot do that at all. Agoraphobia is better defined as the fear of not being able to escape a place safely or seek help when necessary. There are many books and websites you can visit to allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the condition, which, in turn, should allow you to be a more rounded support for your loved one.
- Help with shopping
Helping with shopping is such a simple thing, but one that can mean the world to someone suffering from this. On a good day, you may act as their crotch while they are in the supermarket. On a different, more challenging day, you may go along with a shopping list they have prepared. Both options show you care and will be appreciated. Of course, if you live hundreds of miles away from a loved one or you have your own commitments, which would make this tricky to undertake, you may need to seek another solution. Encouraging them to have their groceries delivered straight to their home may be a good option. They could even consider a pharmacy delivery service without which vital meds may not make it to them. This small change could lift a huge worry off their shoulders, allowing them to focus on other things instead.
- Check in regularly
We all live busy lives, and it can be easy to think, “I’ll send him a message tomorrow!” or “I wonder how Lucy is coping this week,” but then forget, focusing on other things you have going on. This doesn’t make you a bad relative or friend, it just means you get sidetracked easily. Perhaps, you could set a reminder on your phone or put a note in your diary. Even placing a sticky note on the inside of your front door could help. Checking in with an agoraphobic loved one will mean a lot to them, proving that you are still thinking about them whatever is happening in your own life.
- Encourage professional help
It does not matter how much you personally know about the condition and how often you are able to be there in person to support them, this does not negate the need for professional support. The first step can often be the most challenging for them. If they are encouraged to understand that a doctor can better help them to address their needs, they may need your help doing so. For some people, even making a call to an unknown person can be a huge hurdle. There is no harm in you offering to do it for them. Furthermore, if they can only be seen in person rather than having a telephone appointment, this could be another enormous challenge for them. Of course, it is not simply traditional doctors who can help with this. Hypnotherapists may be able to get to the root cause of the issue, and many are willing to come to your home to help. While the fee is usually quite high, what price can you place on opening up the world to someone once again? Again, supporting your loved one by informing them of local experienced therapists may be just what they need.