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Readers Respond: What Is it Like to Have Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia?

Responses: 53


Updated May 25, 2009

Some people with panic disorder develop a condition called agoraphobia. The main symptom of agoraphobia is intense fear (panic response) of being in certain situations in which escape is difficult or potentially embarrassing, or where help is not readily available. More specifically, the focus is on the fear of having a panic attack in such situations. The fear associated with agoraphobia is so intense that the person will usually go to great lengths to avoid the feared situations.

If you could tell people about what it's like to have panic disorder and agoraphobia, what would you say?

Panic Comes With No Warning

For me panic attacks have no warning sign. I could be anywhere, eating lunch with a friend, in a movie theater. And suddenly I feel like I've been thrown out an airplane without a parachute, or the freight train is coming and I am tied to the railroad tracks.
—Guest Marcia

Train Wreck Analogy

You are driving alone in your car and it stalls on a railroad track. The door locks are automatically shut down. You are trapped. You hear the sound of an oncoming train. You watch it come closer and closer and you know you will die. How would YOU feel? That's how a panic attack feels.
—Guest misslanny

Fear of Leaving Home

When I first got Panic Attacks, I got agoraphobia too. Until the medication started working, I could not leave my house. I could not make myself walk out the door.
—Guest Sandi

PANIC Disorder

I generally get paniccy about my job. During that time all rationality is lost. You become a coward. At times this panic situation leads to suicide attempt. This is the genesis of my life. I am unable to get out of it. I know many have been successfully treated for it. But in my case I am going on like that.
—Guest Subba


During a panic attack, it's like being unable to react or feeling like you are rooted to the ground helplessly.


I have a fear of being trapped in a situation - physically or otherwise. It's worse with people I care about because I want them to think well of me. I often act abruptly or rudely in order to get myself away as quickly as possible. It is painful to keep pushing people away out of fear. It is even more painful to not be able to maintain close relationships. I just want to hide in my house where it's safer.
—Guest adrea

Agoraphobia is a Private Hell

The one thing I would say about this disorder is that even though it is so crippling, when you are in it, there seems no alternatives when gripped by the horror of being among other human beings. Everyone is so afraid of being judged, and so, it is with great relief that I retreat behind my closed and locked doors and draw my blinds so as to be shielded from the world's cruelty.
—Guest anangel60

An Illness Like Any Other

I have an illness. You would not belittle or think less of a person who has cancer if they chose not to go to certain places. Why do you feel it's OK to make rude or hurtful remarks to me when I don't want to go places? Don't you realize that your hurtful remarks only add to the pain I'm already suffering?
—Guest Roberta

Fearing the "big one".

I had my first major panic attack in 1982 after coming down from the St. Louis Arch and then driving back across St. Louis on I-70. I drove as far as Colombia, Missouri and my wife had to drive to Kansas City. I thought I was going to have a heart attack and I was only 32 years old. After we drove through Kansas City, I drove the rest of the way home to where we live in Western Kansas. I didn't even know what a panic attack was. Over the next few years, I started getting that seem feeling whenever I was in a car on a trip. Finally, I got help and through valium, xanax, and other prescriptions, I still had panic attacks. I read self help books, went to psychologists, talked to my M.D. Finally, last year, my M.D. put me on one Prozac a day. I haven't had a full-blown panic attack since, but I'm still quite nervous and I'm always worried about having "the big one". if we travel anywhere. BUT, I'm getting better. I wish I could write more here, but I'm out of space.


Having panic disorder is like taking a ski lift to the top of a mountain and being left up there alone.

panic and agoraphobia

the feeling is like the feelings people w/ fears of heights would feel... people w/ clausterpobia would feel in an airplane or submarine... people with a fear of the dentist.. the FEELINGS are very similar to any of these. It feels quite extreme and despairingly impossible to get over... just the feelings.
—Guest jana

Lost Freedom

Imagine what it would be like if your freedom was suddenly taken away for what seemed like no reason. You could no longer walk out of your home (sometimes even into the next room in your home). You couldn't go shopping or just drive or walk down the street. Everything looks unreal and you feel unreal. That is just a small description of what it is like to live with a panic disorder w/agoraphobia. Your freedoms, as the outside world knows them, are gone without rhyme or reason. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.


having a panic attack is not pleasant! but i have discovered, that if one has alcohol problem, the withdrawals can cause them. i like to use the power of positive thinking and exercise to help combat the anxiety and panic i sometimes feel for no reason.

Fight or Flight

Panic attacks are one of the most frightening experiences in life. Your body reacts like you have to "fight or run." The panic reaction is unconscious and you loose control. You feel you are going to die, you heart is pounding like crazy, you feel short of breath, and sometimes you have fatigue, nausea and diarrhea.
—Guest Veronica1

panic disorder

Its tough because you never know when an attack will hit. Just do the best you can to get through it.
—Guest kim
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