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How To Be A Supportive Partner To Someone With Agoraphobia

I’ve had to deal with agoraphobia since my late teens and, in all that time, the most success I had with managing it happened with the support of my partner. Thus, I thought I’d share with you our experience and advice so other relationships that have a person with agoraphobia, or other anxiety or panic disorder, can reduce the strain these conditions can cause on the relationship. So here’s our guide on being a supportive partner to someone with an anxiety disorder.



What Is Agoraphobia?


Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder, where someone fears situations where escape might be difficult or where help wouldn’t be available should something go wrong (NHS). For example, this could stop someone from using public transport or leave them barely able to leave their home.




Why Is Having A Supportive Partner Important?


No partner is perfect, but people with disorders like agoraphobia and anxiety can be harder to live with at times. That’s because anxiety can be illogical, which can be hard for some to empathise with if they’ve not experienced it themselves, or something similar. Being a supportive partner for those going through this is going to be taxing on that person, too.


An article by Rees, O’boyle, and MacDonagh (2001) outlined this problem. They stated that partners can feel a heavy responsibility while being a supportive partner of someone with a chronic illness, which can impact that supportive partner’s quality of life. Furthermore, such supportive partners are often unwilling to reveal just how heavy a responsibility this might be, because they fear being seen as disloyal.


This is exactly how my supportive partner felt when I asked them to write about their experience of supporting me for my blog. Because of this, it took my partner years to feel comfortable about writing such content. But denying that there’s a cost to support someone with their issues, through no fault of their own, is just hiding from the truth. However, this doesn’t mean that the other person getting that support is a burden either.


In fact, Cramer (2006) reports that the way people in romantic relationships deal with issues and support each other affects their satisfaction within the relationship. Stating that, if those people have learned how to better be supportive, then there will be more satisfaction within the relationship. In short, there can be an increase in satisfaction gained from supporting each other in a relationship.




How My Partner Became My Supportive Partner (My Perspective)


My partner has been a very supportive partner for me over the years, but I’ve not always made it easy for them. Not only was I struggling with social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia, but I also had issues with my borderline personality disorder (BPD) and an eating disorder, as well as a truckload of health issues on top of that. So yeah, it not being easy is an understatement. Nevertheless, my partner has stuck by me through it all. The following are the main three ways they helped me the most.


We talked, a lot

We talked about my mental health struggles a lot. We talked about my BPD, and about my anxiety disorders and how they can trigger my psychosis. The relationship wouldn’t have worked if they didn’t understand what was going on with me. More recently, we’ve also talked about my eating disorder.


I could talk to them as a distraction

Often all I’d need while experiencing an anxiety-induced psychotic episode was a distraction. This would help me avoid other triggers being activated and making things worse. They didn’t need to be there in person, they just needed to be there to reply to my messages to keep me occupied so my anxiety levels would reduce, and I’d stop hallucinating.


Graded exposure

My anxiety disorders unfortunately had been paired with my psychosis, so the higher my anxiety is, the worse my psychosis will be. But if I’m not anxious at all, there’s no psychosis. I had started therapy to try to work on this, which is where I had it confirmed that I was experiencing psychosis. However, the therapy wasn’t helping, so I used graded exposure on myself.


My supportive partner made it easy for me to challenge my anxiety disorder’s hold over me through the application of exposure therapy. We’d go places together, helping me to push myself out of my comfort zone, while also having someone there who was willing to support me. This eventually led to me being able to stop engaging in my safety behaviours, which resulted in lasting changes to my anxiety disorders and psychosis.


Before deciding to use exposure therapy on myself, my partner would come to all my hospital appointments, having to take time off work to do that. And I had a lot of appointments for a while. Luckily, I no longer need them to be there and I can attend such appointments on my own now.




Additional Tips For Being A Supportive Partner Of Someone With Agoraphobia


Ask how you can help them

It’s always important to remember that everyone’s experience with agoraphobia and anxiety is different, so it’s important to ask your loved one what they need from you. They may need you to listen to them, help them to problem-solve, or simply be a supportive presence.


For some people with anxiety like me, although they may have good intentions when asking how someone is when they’ve been told they’re feeling anxious, can, in some cases, actually cause more harm than good. So talk to them about what would be the best things to say and do when they tell you they’re feeling anxious.


Educate yourself about anxiety

The more you know about anxiety, the better equipped you will be to support your loved one. There are many resources available online and in libraries. You can also talk to a mental health professional who specialises in agoraphobia and anxiety. Learning about anxiety so you can better understand what they are going through, understanding the symptoms and triggers, can help you be more compassionate.


Be understanding and supportive

Let your loved one know that you are there for them and that you care about them. Listen to them when they need to talk and offer your support without judgment.


Encourage them to seek professional help

If your loved one’s agoraphobia and anxiety are severe or interfering with their daily life, encourage them to seek professional help from a therapist or counsellor. But don’t force them into treatment – let them make that decision when they are ready.


Help them develop coping strategies

Many different coping strategies can help people with agoraphobia and anxiety. Some common coping strategies include relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, grounding techniques, and breathing exercises. You can also try to problem-solve together, so you can help your loved one to learn and practice different coping strategies. A fresh set of eyes might help generate ideas that help them manage their anxiety, which they might not have considered on their own.




Encourage them to stay connected with others

With conditions like anxiety and phobias like agoraphobia, it’s extremely easy to shut yourself away. The problem with doing that is it only makes the agoraphobia and anxiety worse. We’re reinforcing our fears which underpin our anxiety disorders.


Thus, using our social support network and socialising can be very helpful for people with anxiety. Encourage your loved one to stay connected with friends and family members whom they trust and who can offer them support.


Be patient and understanding

It takes time to learn how to manage agoraphobia and anxiety. Don’t get discouraged if your loved one doesn’t have a breakthrough overnight. Just keep being there for them and offering your support. It can also be very difficult to let go of safety behaviours so they can overcome their anxiety disorder for long-term recovery goals. Above all, reassure them that you are there for them.


Take care of yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself emotionally and physically when you’re supporting someone with anxiety. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly. I know, easier said than done. But it’s also important to have time for yourself to relax and de-stress. Burnout can happen when supporting someone else with their health or mental health issues.


It’s easy to find yourselves prioritising the person we’re supporting needs above our own. This is a common problem among careers and people in the healthcare and caring professions.


Help create a calming environment

Depending on how they’re affected by their anxiety disorder, creating a calming environment can be helpful. Also, doing activities together that relieve stress like going for a walk, listening to music, or meditating is helpful. You may also want to help keep noise and other stimuli that may trigger their anxiety disorder to a minimum as well.


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Don’t minimise their feelings

It goes without saying, especially if you’re reading this article, but saying things like “just relax” or “there’s nothing to worry about” can invalidate their experience and harm your relationship. Instead, let them know you take their agoraphobia and anxiety seriously. Be there to listen when they want to talk about their feelings and validate their emotions. Let them know it’s okay to feel anxious.


Ask how you can help when anxiety strikes

Sometimes a good dose of distraction is all someone needs, so offer to talk through what’s making them anxious or suggest grounding techniques and breathing exercises. But let them decide what they need in the moment.


Set healthy boundaries

Everyone should have healthy boundaries, and you’re no different just because you’re supporting someone with an anxiety disorder. At some point, their anxiety will probably affect your life. Helping is important, but not at the expense of your own health. Discuss ways to balance supporting them and protecting your time and energy.


Support group

Encourage them to join a support group, as they might be easier to access than therapy. Sharing with others who experience agoraphobia and anxiety can help them feel less alone. They might also find something useful that helps manage their anxiety while engaging in such groups as well. Also, be there for them if they want you to attend a meeting.


Avoid judgment

Avoid making judgments or criticising them for their anxiety. It’s not something they can control, and trust me, they really wish they could control it. Just be their safe space.




My Partner’s Story Of Supporting Me With My Agoraphobia

I asked my partner to contribute to this article a few years ago, but they weren’t sure about doing so. Because they weren’t sure, I started working on the article alone as this was something I thought was important to talk about. Then, after talking to me a few times towards the end of 2023, my partner decided to finish writing their contribution.


However, my partner wrote a longer contribution than I was expecting, and I want to give that contribution the respect it deserves. Therefore, the following are snippets from my partner’s contribution, but you can find the full post by clicking here.


Fortunately, there are some positive steps a partner can take to help both their partner and themselves. Probably the first and most important step is to learn about the condition. Despite growing public awareness of mental illness, there is still a lot of misinformation around, which contributes to stigma and negative stereotypes, and the rise of social media is almost certainly accelerating this. A good rule of thumb I like to follow is that if something is conventional or received wisdom (or is going viral on social media), then it is probably wrong, or at least heavily biased, and should be treated with scepticism.


Personal accounts, such as mental health blogs, provided some insight – hearing sufferers speak from their own experiences gave me a better idea of what my partner was going through. The rawest accounts felt the most honest – when the author didn’t spare the reader any of the darkest and most disturbing details, I finally felt that I was hearing what it is really like, without a veneer of faux-positivity.


Above all, I found that the best source of information on my partner’s condition is my partner himself – after all he is the leading expert on his own mind. I tried to ask him about his experiences with open questions, and respond in a non-judgmental way – a knowledge of active listening is useful for these kinds of conversations. It’s easy for people to assume that they know what having an anxiety disorder is like, because most people experience anxiety from time to time. However, an anxiety disorder is nothing like “normal” anxiety, and some of the symptoms can be severe and shocking; for example, my partner has experienced hallucinations and suicidality.


In the face of such extreme and frightening symptoms, it’s easy to feel helpless. However, people with long-standing mental health problems usually have their own coping strategies, and it’s useful to know what those are so you can help them to implement those strategies when a crisis hits. This leads to another important step: asking how you can help. I found it was best if I asked my partner about his coping strategies at times of lower anxiety, so that he didn’t have to come up with an answer in the midst of an anxiety attack.


To read my partner’s full contribution on the topic of being a supportive partner and supporting someone with their anxiety, then click here.






The key to being a supportive partner is providing compassion, kindness, understanding, and patience. With your help, they can learn to better manage their agoraphobia and anxiety. But remember, professional treatment is often crucial for overcoming this challenging condition.


If you are concerned about your loved one’s agoraphobia, anxiety, or mental health, then please encourage them to seek professional help. A therapist can help them understand their agoraphobia and anxiety, develop coping mechanisms, and create a treatment plan. Often, a neutral third party, such as a therapist, will be in a better position to support your partner with their mental health issues.


As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with agoraphobia or another anxiety disorder, or being a supportive partner of someone with a mental health issue in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.


Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, you can make a donation of any size below. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.







Cramer, D. (2006). How a supportive partner may increase relationship satisfaction. British journal of guidance & counselling34(1), 117-131. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Duncan-Cramer/publication/232895401_How_a_supportive_partner_may_increase_relationship_satisfaction/links/56bb6b5708ae2481ab6abc75/How-a-supportive-partner-may-increase-relationship-satisfaction.pdf.

Rees, J., O’boyle, C., & MacDonagh, R. (2001). Quality of life: impact of chronic illness on the partner. Journal of the Royal Society of medicine94(11), 563-566. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/014107680109401103.

5 thoughts on “How To Be A Supportive Partner To Someone With Agoraphobia

  1. Sounds like you have a wonderful partner! That makes all the difference :). This is a helpful post as there are certain things that I would not have thought of like not asking if they’re ok constantly as I think we wouldn’t realize that it could be unhelpful. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing this informative article.

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