How to Help Someone With Panic Disorder or Agoraphobia

Are you supporting a friend or loved one with panic disorder or agoraphobia? If so, there are things that you can you can do to help.

Living with panic disorder or agoraphobia can be difficult, but you can take steps to support your friend or loved as they cope with their symptoms. 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 that a person with agoraphobia 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 person with panic and agoraphobia must be able to feel an alliance with you. They must trust that you will accommodate their limitations without judgment. If you’re out with your friend or loved one in a setting that may provoke a fear response, they must know that you can and will provide the assistance they need without question.

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

Don't Attempt to Direct Recovery

You may feel you are helping your friend or loved one overcome their 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. they 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 they are taking the steps that seem right to them to help overcome their symptoms.

Don’t Assume Manipulation

It’s often hard to understand why a person with agoraphobia may be able to do something one day, but not the next. They may go to a restaurant several times, then start to avoid restaurants, followed by resuming this activity. Or, they 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 Think Your Loved One Is Weak

Living in a world of fear, day-in and day-out, is not an easy proposition. Every time a person with agoraphobia ventures past their safe zone, they are showing you monumental strength. Remain encouraging by commenting on their strength, 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