Explaining the fear of leaving your house amid a pandemic

Posted at 12:49 PM, Jul 28, 2020

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Some people are fearful to go to places because they may have an anxiety attack and not be able to get help or escape the situation.

It’s an anxiety disorder called agoraphobia and it causes some people to stay home.

Leaders with Anxiety and Depressions Association of America say agoraphobia stops people going into situations because of a fear of being overwhelmed by anxiety and not being able to escape.

They say its common in people with panic disorders.

Anxiety specialist Ken Goodma, L.C.S.W. is on the Board for the Anxiety and Depressions Association of America. He also released self-help audio programs.

He said he has treated people with agoraphobia over the past 20 years.

“It's basically the fear of coming out of your comfort zone and it typically manifests itself in people being fearful of leaving their home or their property for a variety of reasons,” said Goodman. “I've had patients, maybe go like a mile from their home, but beyond that there is a fear they're going to have a panic attack. For some people they experience, lightheadedness, and they fear passing out, other people may feel tightness in your chest, racing heart.”

News 3 interviewed a man who only wanted to be identified by Tanner. He said he has experienced agoraphobia his whole life.

“It got to the point where I could almost not leave my house like I would walk my dogs around the block and when I would get kind of catty corner, basically two blocks away. I would start having a panic attack,” he said. He said he does not travel on airplanes or over bridges. He said he has gotten treatment and can go into town but does not venue far from home.

Goodman said COVID-19 is stressful for everyone and especially difficult for those who suffer from anxiety disorders. He said COVID-19 is forcing people to stay home. He said if you have an anxiety disorder you can be very afraid to leave your house because of germs or fear of getting COVID-19 and that fear can elevate to agoraphobia.

He said people being forced to stay at home is giving them a small glimpse of what is like to deal with agoraphobia.

“I think it gives people a taste of what it's like,” said Goodman, “It's (COVID-19) giving people legitimacy to stay home. Whereas if you have agoraphobia and there's no COVID-19 there's no legitimate reason for you to stay home.”

"This makes you feel like you're crazy because you are having an extreme reaction to something that you know consciously, you know, it's not dangerous,” said Tanner.

Experts say there is treatment that can help people get better.

“It can be very depressing to have agoraphobia and any sort of anxiety because it limits your life,” said Goodman. “You tend not to socialize with people and you stay inside and that can be very depressing.”

Below are links to places where you can get help:

Click here to visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of American site.

Click here to visit the SAMHSA’s National Helpline.

To learn more about Ken Goodman click here to visit his website.