Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder in which people avoid situations and places that make them feel imprisoned, helpless, terrified, ashamed, or scared. Some people with agoraphobia also suffer from panic episodes or a panic disorder. A fear of using public transport, being in open or confined spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd could be the source of the anxiety.
In the United States, agoraphobia affects less than 1% of the population. It is two to three times more common in women than in men, and it is more prevalent in teenagers and young adults. Agoraphobia can have a significant influence on a person’s daily life. Anyone who has symptoms should get help as soon as possible.
Treatment for agoraphobia can be difficult because it usually entails confronting your concerns. However, the symptoms of agoraphobia can be eased with psychotherapy and medications.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Physical symptoms of agoraphobia can include:
• Fast, pounding heartbeat
• Trembling, Sweating, and shaking
• Breathing difficulties
• Feeling cold or hot
• Diarrhea or nausea
• Chest pain
• Difficulty while swallowing
• Vertigo, Dizziness, or feeling faint
You may feel:
• You might not be able to recover from a panic attack.
• You are not under control.
• You’ll make a terrible impression on people or they’ll gaze at you.
• When you go somewhere, you need to be with someone you can trust.
You can also have:
• A fear of being alone at your own home
• A general feeling of fear or anxiety
Causes of Agoraphobia
The actual cause of Agoraphobia is unknown. There are various factors that have been linked to the development of agoraphobia. These include the following:
• Claustrophobia and social phobia are examples of other phobias.
• Generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder are two examples of anxiety disorders.
• A history of sexual or physical abuse
• A problem with drugs or alcohol
• Family history of agoraphobia
Risk factors of Agoraphobia
The following are some of the risk factors for developing agoraphobia:
• Suffering from panic attacks or other fears.
• Going through difficult life events including losing a loved one, being attacked, or being mistreated.
• Possessing a nervous or worried personality.
• Excessive dread and apprehension in the face of panic episodes.
• Having a relative who suffers from agoraphobia.
Complications of Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia can severely restrict your daily activities. You may not be able to leave your house if your agoraphobia is severe. Some people stay housebound for years if they do not receive therapy. It’s possible that you won’t be able to see family and friends, go to school or work, conduct errands, or engage in other usual everyday activities. You may become reliant on others for assistance.
Agoraphobia can also cause or be linked to the following:
• Abuse of alcohol or drugs
• Other mental health conditions, such as anxiety personality disorders or anxiety disorders.
Prevention of Agoraphobia
There is no way to prevent agoraphobia. It can be easier to control in the early stages. You may get more fearful the more you avoid a situation. Some people who suffer from severe agoraphobia are unable to leave their homes and are completely reliant on others for assistance. If left untreated, agoraphobia can develop to additional health issues, such as depression, alcohol or drug misuse, and other mental health disorders. These are some of the reasons why it’s critical to seek mental health care as soon as possible.
Diagnosis of Agoraphobia
To be diagnosed with agoraphobia, your symptoms must match certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -5 (DSM-5). To be diagnosed with agoraphobia, you must experience acute fear or anxiety in two or more of the following situations:
• using public transit (e.g., a train or a bus)
• being in public places like a supermarket or a parking lot
• being in confined areas like an elevator or a car
• being surrounded by people
• being alone or away from home
Treatment of Agoraphobia
There are a number of treatment methods for agoraphobia. You might need a combination of treatment methods, i.e. psychotherapy and medications.
Psychotherapy, often known as talk therapy, is scheduling regular appointments with a therapist or other mental health practitioner. This allows you to discuss your anxieties as well as any factors that may be contributing to your fears. For maximum success, psychotherapy is frequently paired with drugs. It’s usually a short-term treatment that you can quit once you’ve learned to manage your fears and concerns.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The most prevailing type of psychotherapy used to treat agoraphobia is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can assist you in comprehending the distorted feelings and perspectives that are related with agoraphobia. It can also teach you how to deal with difficult situations by replacing incorrect beliefs with healthy ones, giving you a sense of control over your life.
It is a type of treatment that involves exposure. You can also use exposure therapy to help you conquer your concerns. You’re softly and gradually introduced to the situations or places you’re afraid of in this sort of therapy. This may help to reduce your fear over time.
Certain drugs can help alleviate the symptoms of agoraphobia and panic attacks. These are some of them:
• selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac)
• selective reuptake inhibitors of serotonin and norepinephrine, such as venlafaxine (Effexor) or duloxetine (Cymbalta)
• antidepressants with tricyclic properties, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline (Pamelor)
• benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) or clonazepam (Klonopin)