How to Help Someone With Panic Disorder or Agoraphobia

Are you supporting a friend or loved one with panic disorder or agoraphobia? If so, you may find the following tips helpful.


Learn More About Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

Scared woman in a crowd

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If you have never had recurring panic attacks, it may be hard to understand the difficulties your friend or loved one is going through. In order to be a good support person, it is important that you understand the many complexities of panic disorder and agoraphobia. The fear an agoraphobic experiences is not just nervousness or feeling a little anxious. It is part of a biological and psychological process that is far beyond these limits and is often life-changing.

Learn all that you can about these conditions. You can gather information from reputable websites, educational and self-help books, and brochures from a therapist's or doctor's office. Your increased knowledge can help improve your communication with your loved one.


Be Supportive and Build Trust

To be a good support person, the panic and agoraphobia sufferer must be able to feel an alliance with you. He or she must trust that you will accommodate his or her limitations without judgment. If you’re out with your friend or loved one in his or her fearful world, he or she must know that you can, and will, provide the assistance he or she needs without question.

Let her come to you on her own time when she is ready to open up about her condition. Try to be there to listen as she shares her progress, symptoms, struggles, and setbacks. At times you may find it difficult to relate to her experience with panic disorder, but you can always build trust and support towards her recovery by being a should to lean on.


Don't Attempt to Direct Recovery

You may feel you are helping your friend or loved one overcome his or her fears with excessive prodding. But, this is, likely, to worsen feelings of anxiety, shame, and embarrassment, leading to concealment of symptoms and hindering recovery.

Understand that there are many treatment options available for your loved one with panic disorder. No single treatment method is right forever person. He may choose​ to try therapy, medication, self-help, or even a combination of these options.

Whatever treatment your loved one decides on, take comfort in knowing that he is taking the steps that seem right to him to help overcome his symptoms.


Don’t Assume Manipulation

It’s often hard to understand why an agoraphobic may be able to do something one day, but not the next. He or she may go to a restaurant several times, then start to avoid restaurants, followed by resuming this activity. Or, he or she may be able to drive to certain places some days, but not others. This is not manipulation. These behaviors are common because the basis of the fear is not actually the restaurant or other feared activity. The fear and avoidance come from the fear itself. In other words, your loved one actually fears the frightening symptoms of having a panic attack. These symptoms can vary from day to day, or even morning to night, because of biological, psychological and environmental influences.


Don't View the Agoraphobic as Weak

Living in a world of fear, day-in and day-out, is not an easy proposition. Every time an agoraphobic ventures past his or her safe zone, he or she is showing you monumental strength. Remain encouraging by commenting on her bravery, even when taking the smallest steps toward recovery.

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  1. Kim YK. Panic disorder: current research and management approachesPsychiatry Investig. 2019;16(1):1–3. doi:10.30773/pi.2019.01.08