Saturday, February 10, 2007

How to Offer Unconditional Love and Acceptance to Someone with Agoraphobia

If you want to be an effective support person for someone with agoraphobia, your first job will be to establish a relationship of unconditional love and acceptance with the person who is suffering.

It can be tricky to offer a loving, accepting relationship with a friend or loved one with agoraphobia, even if you had a good relationship with them before.
However, It is important to build this type of relationship before you start trying to help someone with agoraphobia. A safe, supportive relationship of unconditional love and acceptance can be therapeutic, and is the vehicle through which real help can be offered.

Unconditional love and acceptance is much needed by those of us who suffer from agoraphobia because we are often self-critical and have a hard time accepting ourselves. Its even harder to accept yourself when you have agoraphobia and can't function normally. That is why it is so important to have people who accept us no matter what we do or go through. Experiencing the acceptance of others helps us to accept ourselves.Offering unconditional acceptance means being non-judgmental and non-critical.

It means not thinking of agoraphobia and the behaviors that go with it in terms of good and bad or right and wrong. It means not putting the person down or voicing disapproval when they do things you don't understand. It means letting the person know that you love them, care about them, and will not abandon them whether or not they recover from agoraphobia.

Offering unconditional acceptance means not only accepting the person with agoraphobia but accepting the condition of agoraphobia as well - at least for the time being. It means not trying to fix them all the time, refraining from constantly offering advice or suggestions, and not needing to always correct their irrational thinking. It means being able to relax and have fun with them - and talk to them about subjects other than what they need to be doing to get well. It means being willing to let the agoraphobic act agoraphobic - not that you don't want to help them get well - just that there is no pressure from you to hurry in doing so. Nobody wants to feel like a project or like they are letting someone down if they aren't getting better fast enough.

People with agoraphobia need people around them who accept them just as they are. Just like someone suffering from a physical illness or injury - it takes time to heal. If you are able to show your loved one with agoraphobia that you will love and care for them without conditions and will stand by them through the ups and downs - you will have taken a big, first step towards building a relationship with them that will contribute to their recovery from agoraphobia.

Note: Offering unconditional love and acceptance does not mean enabling someone. Part of your job as a support person is to help them find their own motivation to recover. To read more on this topic, click here.


At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Rae said...

:) great, I found this really helpful and insightful.
I know a sufferer of Agoraphobia, it doesnt phase me at all though I will always care for and love them but this was a good guide so thank you. I hope alot of other people read this aswell

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi from Canada Stephen,

Just wanted you to know that I came across your post while researching how to be a good support to my 17 y.o. grandson who is experiencing emotional illness due to physical bullying. He is becoming more and more afraid to leave the house.

I won't hold you to it :) but am finding that if I substitute the term "emotional illness" for the term "agoraphobia" in your articles, I am coming up with what I believe to be the methods to deal with his emotional illness.

Most people are encouraging me to "toughen him up" and "get him to stand on his own 2 feet". My heart tells me that I am the only support system he has, and that I will never remove that support system from him.

Just want to Thank You for reinforcing my belief that unconditional love and support is what is needed, and I will never take that from him when he is ill or when he becomes well.

I wish you well, and will continue to read your blog. It is the most comforting information I've found so far. Thank you.


At 2:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Panic disorder is one of several anxiety disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders are the most common of all psychiatric disorders. The anxiety disorders include agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Nariah said...

Good for people to know.

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