the drama of agoraphobia in public health




“I hit rock bottom, I ended up in a corner of my room sitting and crying not knowing why this was happening to me.” so describes Maria Rocher, a 32-year-old Valencian woman, one of the worst moments caused by the agorafobia, a disease he has suffered since December 2016. A type of anxiety disorder that generates fear of public places and situations that can cause panic and helplessness, for which he tried to ask for help from a specialized public center, whose response was: «When you get there here, we will take care of you”.

Agoraphobia, which etymologically comes from the Greek words “agora” (square) and “phobia” (fear), is defined as a disorder that causes a high degree of anxiety and fear in places where crowds usually occur.

Most people who suffer from it have experienced panic attacks, which end up making it difficult to be present in public spaces. In some cases, they feel the need to be accompanied by a family member or friend at all times, while in others they cannot even leave their own home.

This is the case of María Rocher, a ballroom dance teacher from Valencia, who has been facing this mental illness for five years with the help of her mother and grandfather. “I don’t let myself fall so easily, I’m lucky that I’m very stubborn and I think I’m going to get over it, because if you don’t think about it that way you end up sinking,” he explains to ABC.

María compares agoraphobia to “a poorly constructed building” that “ends up falling because its foundation is not well founded.” “It is like a chain, it can be defined as the fear of being afraid of something. Everyone experiences it differently, but in my case I can not leave home, I am not sure even if I am accompanied by a relative or a friend, “he details.

«In my childhood there was a badly placed piece that has ended up falling. I began noticing greater fatigue and I associated it with work and other personal reasons, but the problem is that it increased until one day after several weeks of feeling bad, I went out into the street and felt that my limit had been reached”, narrates the young teacher . “I came home making eses with the car, I couldn’t park it and when I ran upstairs I went into my room and I didn’t set foot on the street for a long time,” he tells this newspaper.

Health did not attend to him

When Maria decided to call the doctor to find out the extent of her condition and if there was any specific treatment to treat it, she was met with a harsh and forceful response from a nurse at the health center: “When you get here we will assist you”. Incredulous and indignant at this response, her reply was that “when I could go I would invite them to a party, since I wouldn’t have any problems to cure.”

Image of María Rocher, a woman who has suffered from agoraphobia for five years
Image of María Rocher, a woman who has suffered from agoraphobia for five years – ABC

For three years, he has been seeing a private psychologist who is helping him to discover the reasons why he suffers from this disease, with the aim of “building a new life as if he were not just living day to day, focused on the confidence of being able to overcome this limited time like that of any other ailment ». «My grandfather was the one who had the hardest time believing that this was real. He did not understand why he rejected jobs and plans, until he realized that this could not be solved by banging the table and that I was not like this because I wanted to, “he says.

“The mental health it is as important as physics, the difference is that one is seen and the other is not”, emphasizes María, who focuses another great problem on the importance of the environment and “what will they say”. “People who are going through this type of illness should not let ourselves be influenced by those who judge, criticize or who tell us that we are not going to overcome it. Only in this way will it be easier to find out what is happening to us, win and have a life as normal as possible, ”he tells this newspaper.

María is currently studying a Higher Degree in Administration and Finance, for which she needed the help of the director of her old school to enroll. It should be remembered that in non-compulsory training, as in the case of this course, its adaptation is not essential for people who cannot attend in person, but the pandemic of the coronavirus It has made it possible for classes and exams to be virtual.

A parallel quarantine by Covid-19

“If I had not informed the center of my case, they would not have found out with this telematic and blended model of classes,” explains this Valencian woman who experienced home isolation due to the Covid-19 as a “parallel quarantine”. “I did not notice the confinement excessively because it caught me in a stage of total confinement in which I could not be outside my room, I did not feel the fear of infecting myself that other people feel,” he clarifies.

“The problem with agoraphobia is that we always look at it from a physical point of view. In fact, the most famous therapy is cognitive-behavioral, which consists of exposing oneself to fear, living it, having a hard time and overcoming it. The point is that states of anxiety are linked to a reason that you have to know first in order to overcome it”, explains María.

According to the report on mental health from the Ministry of Health, dated December 2020, the annual incidence of global prevalence of diagnosis of phobia is around 0.35%, while it is more frequent in women (2.4%) than in men (1.4%). A difference that increases between the ages of fifty and 54, a range in which women report 3.3%.

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