Dear Annie: I have agoraphobia, and before I knew what I suffered from, I thought I was going crazy. Even harder is getting my husband to understand the problem, since he can't see anything physically wrong with me.

This phobia affects everyone around me. I no longer go shopping, to the park with my children or for a walk down the street to enjoy the scenery. It is so hard to deal with. Is there any way you could inform people about this problem? — Looking Out the Window

Dear Window: Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, dizziness, nausea and chest pains. Some people think they are having a heart attack. People with agoraphobia do not feel safe in public places, and in severe cases, they become trapped in their own homes — like you. It can become a very debilitating condition.

The good news is, medication and therapy have proved to be helpful, and if you can work up the courage to see your doctor and explain the problem, you are on your way to recovery. If that's too difficult, check out online resources such as the Anxiety/Panic Attack Resource Site (anxietypanic.com) at 1-888-584-7112 and the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (adaa.org), 8730 Georgia Ave., Suite 600, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Dear Annie: My wife and I have been happily married for almost 25 years. "Mary" is my best friend and the most wonderful wife and mother I could ever imagine. We enjoy each other's companionship tremendously and our love life is superb. We have five sons who bring a lot of joy to our lives.

Our 25th wedding anniversary is soon approaching, and I had been setting aside some money to take her on a trip. Instead, Mary wants to use that money to pay for the boys' car insurance to help them out. I am fine with that, but I still want to honor her and celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Do you have any suggestions? — Pensacola, Fla.

Dear Pensacola: This topic has come up before, and suggestions have included love letters, massages and foot rubs, and setting up a romantic evening with a candlelit dinner, bubble bath, music and her favorite movie. Use your imagination.

Dear Annie: I would like to respond to "Dilemma in the Midwest," who complained about his wife's less-than-enthusiastic libido after she was treated for cancer. I almost choked when I read his words: "Our house is clean, there is food on the table, bills are paid, but I'm not happy." Excuse me for a moment while I get out my violin. This is not a dilemma. It is a manifestation of how truly arrogant, unfeeling and selfish he is.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a complete hysterectomy, followed by intensive chemotherapy and a long recovery. I have been blessed with the kindest, most caring man a woman could hope for. When I was taking a shower and saw my hair fall out, I screamed, and my husband calmly stepped in the shower and held me, consoling me until the tears subsided. When I vomited, he bathed my face with a cool cloth and spoke comforting words. When I was too weak to move, he took care of me, our son and our household, while running his own business. His optimism, strength, love, compassion and confidence were contagious, making me believe I would make it.

When I read "Dilemma's" letter, I immediately said a prayer for his wife. For him, I can only hope it's not too late to knock some sense and compassion into that hard heart.— Disgusted by Your Dilemma


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailboxcomcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.