Introduction to Agoraphopia Exposure Therapy
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.