In the depths of my toxic relationship, I found myself feeling really sort of numb. I functioned like a robot and did just the bare minimum I needed to do to get by. When I finally left, I thought everything would change – I thought my life would suddenly get better and I tried really hard to act as if that were the case. But just under the surface, there was a sort of anxiety that bubbled up every time I thought about going out in public.
I stopped taking care of myself in certain ways. While I showered every day, I only did it because I was forced to go to work to support my child. I only put clean clothes on for that reason. I stopped wearing makeup and I stopped bothering to try to feel good about my appearance.
On the weekends, I’d do my very best to avoid leaving the house and I would not shower or get dressed. I felt like I was so overwhelmed and stressed out by going to work and shopping for groceries and whatever else I did during the week that I needed a break – at least that’s what I told myself.
I thought that was taking care of myself, and I guess in some ways, it was – sort of. But it also caused me to avoid any social situations that I wasn’t forced to be part of, and quite honestly, if I did not need to support my son, I most likely would have avoided leaving the house at all costs.
I found myself thinking things like:
I wish I never had leave the house. I don’t want to get out of bed. How do I stop being lazy and start wanting to live again? What the heck is wrong with me?
Can you relate? If so, you’re not alone. Many survivors of narcissistic abuse find themselves feeling just like this when they leave a toxic relationship (and often, while they’re still in it!). But what causes this? Have you developed agoraphobia? Or is something else going on?
When you’re abused by a toxic narcissist, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the simple idea of leaving the house to do anything. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean you’ve got agoraphobia or any other mental illness. The depression can be caused directly by the narcissistic abuse, not to mention the anxiety and general adrenal stress that comes along with it.
Even basic stuff like going to the grocery store can feel overwhelming – and you might find that you prefer to be alone a lot.
And who can blame you? It’s incredibly exhausting, both mentally and physically, to deal with narcissistic abuse and people with a narcissistic personality disorder. And recovery has so many of its own challenges that we often stay stuck in negative patterns unless we intentionally choose to start to work through it and get out.
With all of that being said, I think it’s important to define agoraphobia for you really quickly. Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. Contrary to popular belief, agoraphobia does NOT mean you’re unable to leave the house, but that is often a complication of the anxiety associated with extreme agoraphobia.
You might also have a number of other anxiety disorders related to your toxic relationship – including stuff like social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and more. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), for example, can be a side effect of C-PTSD.
These issues along with a number of other factors will cause you to not want to leave the house – and there are lots of things you can do to get unstuck. In the short term, try things like pattern interrupts and baby steps to get you moving in the right direction. Watch this video for more.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.