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Advice for Agoraphobics who Want to Date

written by: HeatherW • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 12/27/2010

Do you have agoraphobia and are afraid to go out on a date? While this can be nerve-wracking, there are ways of coping so you can get back on the dating scene.

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    Introduction to Agoraphopia Exposure Therapy

    Agoraphobia 

    Agoraphobia or "fear of being in public places" can definitely present problems if you want to date. Traditional dating involves spending time with someone in public, whether that is in the theater, a restaurant, or other entertainment venues. Not only is it a safe way to establish trust, but it tends to decrease anxiety and offer fun for the typical person. Unfortunately, the agoraphobic is not equipped to handle these situations and must consider other alternatives, along with therapeutic tools. There are options if you have agoraphobia and afraid to go out on a date. Exposure treatment is one of the best treatments available for the agoraphobic who wants to go out, but is still held back by fear.

    In exposure therapy, the person with the phobia works with a therapist to expose themselves to the source of their fear for short periods of time, and slowly extending those periods with each session. For the agoraphobic person, treatment will depend on the severity of their phobia. For some people with agoraphobia, they are not housebound - they merely cannot go into grocery stores or crowded places for long periods of time. Others cannot leave the home setting at all.

    For those who are not housebound, exposing themselves to a restaurant setting for a short period of time, perhaps 5-15 minutes, will be a good starting point. It is good to go with a trusted friend, and just sit at the bar/table and order a drink and sit and absorb the atmosphere. From this point, the sessions can be lengthened to 20 -30 minutes and so on.

    For the person who is housebound, there is much more work to be done; you will never meet anyone if you are too scared to leave your four walls. So you need to challenge yourself in small stages and understand that venturing outside your home is not such a big deal.

    While exposure therapy still works for this level of agoraphobia, it starts at the front door, rather than at a restaurant, with sessions of five minutes standing outside the doorway. A method that may be useful for the housebound agoraphobic is to consider outdoor dining, concerts, or picnics in the park. This affords the stricken individual an opportunity to distance themselves from crowds to the point of their comfort, while maintaining the safety of a public environment.

    Other considerations for those with agoraphobia and afraid to go on a date include taking anti-anxiety medications, talking to your prospective date about your problem, and joining a dating site for people with social anxiety disorders.

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    Medications

    Many people with agoraphobia are treated with SSRIs and Benzodiazepines, the same medications used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. This is because, in effect, people with agoraphobia have anxiety and panic whenever they are exposed to crowded places. These drugs can often help the agoraphobic cope with being out in public by calming them down for long enough so that self-help techniques such as deep breathing will be effective.

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    Talk to Your Prospective Date

    One of the best ways for someone with agoraphobia to handle going out on a date is to talk to that person about the problem. Be upfront about your condition, but don't be self-pitying and don't sound like it is taking over your life. If you come across as being resigned to your agoraphobic fate the other person may run a mile, but if they realize that you have not given in and are fighting your anxiety they will be more likely to understand where you are coming from and help you to work with it.

    If you want to use an online dating service, try one for people with social anxiety disorders and don't be shy of mentioning your agoraphobia in your profile.

    Use these steps to help you look for dates and hopefully the person of your dreams.

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    References

    1. Agoraphobia - http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Phobia-Agoraphobia.htm
    2. Agoraphobia - http://www.anxietycare.org.uk/docs/agoraphobia.asp
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    Photo Credit

    1. Agoraphobia - Photobucket - ChocoloteAvocodos
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