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Understanding Agoraphobia

UnknownAccording to Wikipedia, “agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives certain environments as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment’s vast openness or crowdedness. These situations include wide-open spaces, as well as uncontrollable social situations such as the possibility of being met in shopping malls, airports and on bridges. Agoraphobia is defined within the DSM-IV TR as a subset of panic disorder, involving the fear of incurring a panic attack in those environments. In the DSM-5, however, agoraphobia is classified as being separate from panic disorder. The sufferer may go to great lengths to avoid those situations, in severe cases becoming unable to leave their home or safe haven.” This can be challenging to treat because people have to confront their fears and most are unwilling to do so. Most are on guard and have developed routines to avoid situations that will cause panic attacks or anxiety. The following blog will disucss symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What are the Symptoms

1) Fear of being alone

2) Fear of being in crowded places

3) Fear of not being able to escape if panic or anxiety attacks occur

4) Fear to leave home alone. They may leave if another person accompanies them.

5) Fear to lose control

6) Depends on others

People with agoraphobia often become dependent on others and may remain in their home for long periods of time. They do not feel safe in crowded places which will require others to go with them outdoors. Most people with agoraphobia experience symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks such as chest pain, dizziness, chocking sensation, sweating, rapid heart beat, difficulty breathing. They avoid situations that may bring these attacks up and develop routines to avoid feeling the symptoms of anxiety or panic. Agoraphobia can interfere with socialization, work or running errands. It can develop before the age of 35, however it can occur in older people as well. Women are more likely to develop agoraphobia but men develop it as well.

 What is the Cause for Agoraphobia

A number of things can cause agoraphobia. A repeated exposure to anxiety or panic atacks may be one explanation for developing agoraphobia. Another may have a genetic component to it where it tends to run in families. Having a stressful or traumatic event may also cause agoraphobia.

What is the Treatment

A combination of therapy and medication can help treat agoraphobia. Cognitive behavior therapy can help challenge and change the irrational thoughts that causes the condition. With this type of treatment, you will learn how your fears are irrational, you will manage the symptoms, you will cope with the symptoms, and you will learn to change unwanted and unhealthy behaviors through desensitization. Relaxation techniques and stress management techniques can help as well. You can read some relaxation techniques on my post Natural Ways to Cope with Panic and Anxiety Attacks. It is best to speak with a professional regarding which medication to take to alleviate the symptoms of agoraphobia.

There is no way to prevent agoraphobia. Anxiety symptoms increase the more you avoid situations. Get treatment in order to avoid symptoms from getting worse.

 

Image taken from webmd.com
Understanding Agoraphobia


Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.


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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Understanding Agoraphobia. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 29, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mental-health-awareness/2014/12/understanding-agoraphobia/

 

Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.