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My 5 Truths About Living With Panic Disorder Combined With Phobias

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Panic disorder is difficult enough to deal with on its own, but sometimes phobias such as agoraphobia and emetophobia can develop with it. Agoraphobia is defined as the fear of being unable to escape certain situations, and feeling trapped in them with no control. Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting. I have since improved with the help of medication and lots of love, but these phobias have not gone away – they just don’t cause panic attacks anymore. They still affect me and have caused many unpleasant memories. Here are five things I have struggled with while battling panic disorder and these phobias.

1. If I associated a scenario with a panic attack, I did almost anything to avoid it.

When someone with panic disorder also has agoraphobia, that person will likely associate situations and people with their panic attacks and begin avoiding them like their lives depend on it. I experienced this and stayed away from people and situations that made me feel helpless. Situations like driving, navigating crowds, and interacting with controlling people made me want to run away.

2. I “hermitized” myself.

Because of what I mentioned above, I almost never left the house. If it were left up to me, I would’ve never left my room. Whenever it came time to go somewhere like college or church, I would do my best to not interact with anyone so I could survive the encounter with minimal scars and hopefully no panic at all. This has since improved, but I still experience the symptoms of wanting to stay in my room/my house. I believe my brain has been trained to see people as potential threats because of my experiences with agoraphobia.

3. If someone coughed, gagged, or said they felt nauseous, I’d fight a panic attack and begin avoiding them.

Nausea felt like the actual plague for me! I avoided it and anyone experiencing it as if it were death incarnate. If someone experienced any kind of stomach bug symptoms, I would get nauseous (which would likely lead to panic) and then evacuate the situation. Even if the person only said they “felt bad” and weren’t specific as to why, I would always assume they were nauseous and avoid them. Anything I could do to get away, I did.

4. Nausea brought on panic attacks and/or made them worse.

I was so intensely scared of throwing up that whenever I would get nauseous, I’d panic. Similarly, whenever I was already in the heat of a panic attack, vomiting is what I would fear the most. When people have panic attacks, they likely fear one thing intensely. For some it’s death, for others it’s fainting, some fear heart attacks – for me, it was vomiting.

5. I didn’t want to eat.

Whenever I had anxiety or panic of any kind, food was like poison. Because I was so terrified of vomiting, I avoided food and ate very little every day. My appetite was horribly messed up, and during the worst months of my panic, I lost about 7 pounds. I was already underweight; needless to say, losing that weight when you’re already underweight is bad. To this day, I still have trouble eating, even though I’ve improved a lot.

I’m happy to say that thanks to my medicine I have gained my pounds back and am largely better now, but my phobias still have an impact on me. I’m still teaching my body how to eat correctly, and I still fear vomiting. I’m still uncomfortable when I leave my house, and I feel as though I stick out as being “off” somehow. However, even though it’s been a pain getting here, I am much better than I was. Thank you so much for reading, and if you struggle with these or something similar to these, I hope and pray you find something that works for you. God bless you all, keep being mighty.

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Thinkstock photo by Discha-AS

Originally published: December 6, 2016
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