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Backed into a Corner

Dear Hannah

I am a retired 67-year-old woman. I am now looking forward to more leisure time – to be active and creative. Lately I noticed that I get nervous standing in line at the grocery store, my heart is pounding and I feel dizzy. Once I even left my groceries and ran out of the store. My friends want to use the Canada Line to go downtown. I find myself making excuses not to go. The last time I was at an underground station I felt nauseous and broke out in a cold sweat. I missed some very pleasant excursions. My doctor’s office is on the 6th floor. When the door to the elevator opened, I started gasping for air, I thought I was having a heart attack.

I am staying home much more, I do not want to continue like this. My world is getting smaller and smaller. I feel like I am being backed into a corner.

Dear “Backed into a Corner”

Your fears have created anxiety, which has in turn caused unpleasant physical responses. This chain reaction of perceived threat, apprehension or worry about having a panic attack, and the negative bodily sensations, causes you to feel that something catastrophic is about to happen. You then avoid certain places and situations. You are embarrassed and scared and do not wish for other people to see you in this state. Also you fear being unable to escape the situation when it occurs.

The psychological term for this cluster of symptoms is “Agoraphobia.” The good news is that you can eliminate these physical reactions, called anxiety and panic attacks, and resume your normal life. JSA’s Peer Counselling service can arrange to meet with you, assess your problems and symptoms and then refer you to the appropriate psychotherapist or clinician. The cognitive-behaviour method is very successful in eliminating these symptoms which cause you to avoid the triggers of your anxiety. With the assistance of a professional, you will gradually be exposed to the triggers of your behaviours, you will realize that you are not in danger, and your confidence will be restored. The world will again be available for you to explore.


Hannah,   M.Sc. Counselling