For many people, traveling is more than a hobby or a great way to spend vacation days. It can be a way of life, and some feel lost without it. However, if you develop an anxiety disorder centered around being in unfamiliar places and people, such as agoraphobia, it can eliminate your travel possibilities. This article will cover if it’s possible to travel again with agoraphobia.
What is Agoraphobia?
The fear of being in a crowded area, feeling trapped or unable to escape in public transit, elevators, malls, etc. is a disorder called agoraphobia. It’s a type of anxiety disorder This disorder may cause you to have panic attacks that can lead to physical effects on the body such as trouble breathing, increased heart rate, and in some cases, feel like you’re dying.
Common symptoms of agoraphobia according to the Mayo Clinic are:
• The fear of leaving home alone
• Avoiding crowds
• The fear of open spaces such as parking lots
• Experiencing distress in social situations
• Feeling trapped on public transportation
Most people develop this fear after having one or more panic attacks while in a specific place and start to avoid situations or places they think it may happen again. As this anxiety grows, it can become so intense that some may be unable to do daily tasks alone or at all, including going to the store or using transportation, and in severe cases, unable to leave their home.
Is It Possible to Travel with Agoraphobia?
Trying to determine if you’re able to travel with agoraphobia is entirely up to what you are comfortable with. Also, listening to what a mental health professional says is an important factor. To make it a possibility for you to travel is a longer process. It’s important to know that this process can be taken at whatever pace feels right, whether that’s in a day, week, or year. It really depends on how severe the anxiety is for you. But, if you feel as though you may have an anxiety attack when you travel, you may not be ready yet.
If you have trouble going to the grocery store or taking the subway, you must conquer those fears before moving on to traveling and being in a foreign place with similar situations. Think of these accomplishments as your practice run for the journey ahead. Once you have a few of these wins under your belt, you’re ready to start thinking about traveling.
Recognize Why You Want to Run Away or Be Alone
When traveling with a disorder that is telling you to go back home and that you’re not safe, it’s easy to forget why you want to do this. Being mindful of your fears and anxieties is one of the most difficult and meaningful parts of this experience for you. Speaking words of affirmation to yourself such as, “I am safe and in control” or taking a moment to meditate in your room, a beach, or a park can actualize your desire for positivity on your journey. Only you know why you wish to do this. So, it may be helpful to write those reasons down and look at them when you have doubts or become afraid.
Your Best Friend: Planning
The absolute best thing you can do before embarking on any adventure is having a plan. This may sound self-explanatory, but you must have a real plan, made by the person who knows you best: you. This plan will include things like the flights or the road map, hotel accommodations, and so on, but also incorporating an itinerary of what you’ll specifically be doing each day, what you’ll be eating for your meals, buying tickets for events beforehand, how you’ll get to and from those events in a way you’ll feel safe, and the list goes on. Having a full, scheduled plan will allow you to take (hopefully most of) the worrying out of the time you are supposed to be enjoying your adventure.
Researching where you’re going, having a clear vision of what your travel will look like, and having backup plans are all so important to your plan as well. What neighborhood are the restaurants you want to visit in? Are you comfortable relying on an Uber or public transit or would a rental car make you feel safer? What kind of amenities does your hotel have that you can comfort yourself in if you need “an escape” from an event that overwhelmed you? Finding solutions to the worries you think you may have beforehand and implementing them into your plan will come in handy when you start to feel out of control. This detailed itinerary will be your best friend when it comes to grounding you to your goals of traveling.
Bring a Travel Buddy with You
Traveling with a friend or partner has some pros and cons when it comes to agoraphobia. Some positives are feeling safer with another person, having an anchor to reality if you start to panic, and of course having a companion to share the experience with. Some negatives may be worrying about the other person along with yourself, feeling stuck in a situation you no longer wish to be in, but the other person wants to stay, and the other person not being able to provide the support you need when you need it.
It is crucial when having a friend with you that they are aware of your anxiety and to be honest about your needs for the trip, setting clear expectations and having backup plans, and making sure they are capable of providing the special support you need to feel comfortable overcoming your fears.
Traveling With Agoraphobia
You have the power to make your travel dreams a reality. Remind yourself why you want this for yourself and how great you’re going to feel once you make the decision to do it. Agoraphobia is something that is treatable. So, take an online test to see if you have the symptoms for it, and see a counselor or doctor for treatment. Tell them about your dreams to travel and see what your treatment options are. From there, you should have a game plan to travel, despite your agoraphobia.