It’s estimated that more than 19 million people in this country have a specific phobia. When considering phobias, they can be anything from the fear of driving a car to the dismay of crossing a bridge. Though these worries are irrational as they are anxiety-based, to the person suffering from these conditions, the imminent danger is very real.
It’s hard to imagine that people are afraid of supermarkets, but about five percent of the population suffers from this horror. Yes, the stores that carry all the necessary items that it takes to run a home are danger zones for those who have agoraphobia.
Symptoms of Super Market Phobias
The underlying cause of agoraphobia is anxiety. Typically, a person has a panic attack or other instance that occurs inside the supermarket. The brain automatically associates the trauma with that location, which causes the person to fear and avoid the situation. Agoraphobia is when anxiety interferes so much with someone’s life that they become limited in where they go. Many become housebound, but that’s not always the case.
What is it about grocery stores that seem to be so scary? Well, first, there is a great deal of noise. The sound of cash registers scanning, carts trolling by, children screaming, and the hustle and bustle are overstimulating. Those who suffer from anxiety find that the people, lights, and noise, cause sensory overload. Plus, there’s the fear of being trapped in the line at the checkout or being embarrassed should an attack happen while shopping.
If you’re suffering from a supermarket phobia, you will experience a racing heart, dizziness, sweating, feeling like you’re going to pass out, confusion, and a variety of other symptoms upon entering the store. For some, it’s the wide-open spaces that make them feel vulnerable. Others cannot stand areas where the aisles are crowded and hard to maneuver.
Diagnosing the Fear of Supermarkets
If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms associated with grocery store fears or agoraphobia, it’s essential to talk to your doctor. The physician will want to run some medical tests to make sure there are no underlying health issues that are causing these problems. Once your health is cleared, then they look to mental health issues for a proper diagnosis.
The good news is that treating agoraphobia based mental health disorders is done every day. The first recommended treatment is medication. Some people don’t want to take prescriptions or prefer a more natural approach. Another highly recommended form of treatment is CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. During these sessions, you will learn coping skills and how to identify triggers at the store.
Exposure therapy using virtual reality is the best way to treat phobias. When you allow your body to feel anxiety rise to its peak and then subside, the brain will disassociate those panicked feelings.
Virtual reality is a safe way for many to have exposure therapy without physically going to the market. The computer-generated experience allows you to make your way through the aisles from a safe place. Just seeing the images of a supermarket will bring about feelings of anxiety and dread. However, once you begin to feel comfortable inside the virtual store, you can head to the real location with newfound confidence.
It’s important to remember when dealing with a phobia that anxiety is an irrational fear. They are silly and unfounded. One bad experience can be forever ingrained in your brain, and you will fear for the worst. Consequently, fear doesn’t have to rule your life anymore. You can take control and desensitize that anxiety and get rid of the phobia.