Agoraphobia is growing. While it has roots in all different experiences, the Covid pandemic has intensified agoraphobia for many. One moment, everyone was being told to stay indoors and to see the outside world as an enemy. Now everyone is supposed to plunge back into getting out and about as if lockdown never happened. Not everyone adjusts as quickly as that. Lockdown was such an unreal and surreal experience that it’s gone deep with a lot of people. You might still be anxious about Covid, or you could simply have got so used to being indoors that going out now seems a big deal. And now that we can do so much online – even working from home – there’s less need to go out so that staying in becomes even more of a habit.
This has all got me wondering how art might be useful for someone who has agoraphobia, whether since the pandemic or for a long time. If you have agoraphobia, you may find you have more time on your hands – time you might have spent going out. This is one way art can really help. Time can soon fly once you start drawing, painting, colouring or crafting, and you feel absorbed and immersed. This can become a refuge from the agoraphobia. While drawing or colouring, your agoraphobia might recede for a while as you focus on pen and paper.
While you’re enjoying art and craft, fear of going out isn’t an issue, because this is an activity you would probably be doing at home anyway. So there’s no pressure. If you have agoraphobia, pressure to go out (from yourself or others) can overshadow each day, whereas art can become a haven.
Are there other ways that art could help? It’s a positive to focus on, and it’s a constant, an activity you can come back to at any time. By absorbing your mind, art & craft can be very calming, easing any form of anxiety. If you’re trying ERT or other forms of therapy for your agoraphobia, art could help you set the therapy aside as you wait for the next time you’re seeing your therapist or supposed to try going out.
Loneliness can also become an issue for people with agoraphobia, as you may not be bumping into people outdoors, or able to attend events. Art can be a way to connect with others online from home, for example through a Facebook group or online art workshops on Zoom or Teams. Sharing an interest, you have immediate common ground.
There are so many different kinds of art and craft to try, whether you’re new to them all or have painted or sewn for years. This is also great stimulus.
Agoraphobia is obviously different for everyone. Is it about not wanting or daring to interact with other people? Is it about leaving the familiarity and security of home? Is it all the possible perils out there, imagining what might happen? Or does going out seem a hassle, so that you don’t feel you have the energy to get up and go? Maybe you don’t mind going out usually but struggle with particular settings, such as crowded spaces? Agoraphobia can also be connected to physical health issues like mobility problems or sight or hearing loss. Experiencing agoraphobia is not going to be solved by art, but in many different ways time spent trying art and craft can be liberating.
Maybe you (or someone you know) have agoraphobia, or other anxiety. It would be great if you’d like to join Think Art, my Facebook group sharing how art can help lots of mental health issues – just go to (1) Think Art | Facebook Thank you.