Leaving Our Homes for the Outside World Once More
Following the rollout of the vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson), the world seems to finally be returning to the “normal” that it knew prior to COVID-19. While many are elated to shed the mask requirements, social distancing, and work-from-home orders, some have found comfort in these defense tactics. Others have adopted this as their new normal, and may find it difficult to revert to old ways now that everyone is beginning to trickle out into the world again. Public spaces are seeing numbers grow as crowds slowly begin to fill the once empty sidewalks.
Agoraphobia is the fear of public places, which mental health experts believe many will face as people begin to emerge from their plague shelters.
There is a comfort that comes from working in your own home, but let’s dive into this a little more as to why that is. There are certain pleasures that stem from the ability to work from the comfort of your own couch, in clothes that fit your body just right, and the ability to seek out your pet when the stress calls for a five-minute ‘let’s-dote-on-our-furry-children’ break.
Personally, the pandemic hit hard. The mayor of my city recently lifted the mask requirement, making it so that now public establishments can no longer enforce the public to wear masks if they do not wish to. When I recently revisited the county that I grew up in, I still wore my mask because I have loved ones in my life who, while vaccinated, are immunocompromised, thus still vulnerable to the virus until their vaccine kicks in (which takes roughly two weeks from the time the vaccine has been administered to be fully effective).
One would think that returning to normal would feel safe, comforting, but instead I was a little unnerved to see so many maskless faces in such a small, enclosed area (I visited a gas station and briefly went in to pay for gas on pump three). It was a moment of realization that things had been different for an entire year, and that returning to “normal” overnight is going to be difficult for a number of people, (evidently myself included).
It can be a bizarre feeling, watching the world grow excited to return to a state of normal pre-plague, but it can also feel a bit alienating to those who found comfort in the caution.
Perhaps you are one of the individuals who are happy that the vaccine is working but upset that this means having to leave your bunker, where you’ve accumulated all of your best comforts to get you through the pandemic. It’s a fantastic example of one of those vicious cycles that pop up so often in life: we need our security blankets to get us through the pandemic, and now that the pandemic is over we need our security blanket to face the open world.
As we peek through our windows at the busy sidewalks and ‘open’ signs where maskless people are popping in and out, a shared question rests on the tongue of many home-dwellers.
When Can That Be Me?
What is Agoraphobia?
To first understand how to beat something like agoraphobia, let’s first take a look at just what the anxiety disorder consists of, which is the avoidance of places and situations that make someone feel:
What Causes Agoraphobia?
Though the exact cause of this condition is unknown, there are certain factors that contribute to the disorder, like:
- Depression (increased depression numbers post-covid)
- Other phobias (hypochondriac)
- Substance abuse problems
- Other anxiety disorders, like OCD and generalized anxiety disorder
By this point you may be wondering how people overcome this disorder, or when you’ll be able to re-enter the world of the recovering. Your process may be a bit slower than your neighbor or your friends, and that’s okay. With less severe cases the symptoms may go away with time, but for more extreme cases you may want to consider the following:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Exposure Therapy
There are certain medications that can help with symptoms related to agoraphobia, but be sure to get with your doctor before self-medicating.
Lifestyle choices won’t necessarily directly affect your symptoms, but eating a balanced diet, regularly exercising, and taking care of your mental health are all great ways of making sure both your body and mind are well taken care of. Everything else will follow suit over time.
Embracing The Unknown
At the end of the day, there are many reasons to stay inside, but it’s the very uncertainty that’s holding us back that should be pushing us out our front doors. For the past year we have been surviving, but now it’s time to live again.