The Killer is Lurking in Your House!



Photo by: J W Foster

Most of us have seen the commercial where a young 20-ish woman is walking home and looking anxious as if she knows some dangerous criminal is following her. She rushes home while looking over her shoulder out of fear that he is catching up to her.  She finally makes it into her apartment—just in time to lock and bolt the door! We as the audience, breathe that sigh of relief right along with her as she safely enters her living room, turns on the TV and settles down for that much-deserved moment of relaxation.

Then she lights a cigarette. The message of the commercial now becomes clear to us. She is more likely to die from the cigarettes than some imaginary killer.

What does this have to do with anxiety? Most people who suffer from anxiety tend to avoid going out of the home. The condition can be so limiting, it is diagnosed as agoraphobia. Staying home can feel safe because there are so many nasties out in the world like marathon bombers, shootings in movie theatres, pirates in the ocean, and plane crashes. Shooters and bombers and pirates–Oh my!

So isn’t it safer to stay home? Why does the fact that I want to stay indoors and enjoy the privacy and comfort of my home have to be labeled as some kind of psychiatric disorder?

The answer is, it doesn’t. It only becomes an anxiety disorder if it prevents you from working or establishing social connections.

Today I am going to argue for a completely different way of looking at the issue though. Whether you call it a disorder or a life choice, staying indoors as your primary defense for staying alive is a form of self-deception.  The odds of a person being murdered in a year are 1 in 18,690. According to the National Safety Council (2013) the average person’s life-time odds of being shot is 1 in 340. However, your life-time risk of dying from heart disease is 1 in 7.  If you had to bet your life, which wager would you make:

1.    I’ll bet my life on going out and getting shot
2.    I’ll bet my life on staying home, and dying of a heart attack or stroke.

The first bet seems scarier, but that is why a disease like hypertension is called the “silent killer.” It’s because you don’t know it’s killing you. But that doesn’t stop it from ending your life unexpectedly.  It also makes sense that when we stay indoors, we gain weight (fat) and lose muscle mass just from being more sedentary.

We recently walked the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek through northern Spain. There is no doubt in my mind that the time I spent walking from just one town to the next, on average 1-2 hours of hiking, was more physically demanding than rearranging my furniture or climbing the stairs repeatedly at my house. It’s just the naked fact. And speaking of naked, I looked a lot better after I finished it then all the aerobics I had done working out with Jillian Michaels at home.

Next time you start feeling anxious about leaving home because of shooters and bombers and pirates waiting for you to step foot outdoors, try listening to your body’s own health forecast instead of CNN news. Your chances of living a happy, healthy life will skyrocket because the killer following you home will finally be arrested.

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