Agoraphobia is defined as the fear of the outside or being in a kind of situation from which a person (who suffers the condition) believes it is difficult to escape or even find help to escape. Some examples of such situations include wide-open spaces and certain social situations like those that may be met with in airports, shopping malls and on bridges.
Generally, onset of the phobia occurs between 20 and 40 years of age and it is more common in women. It is estimated that approximately 2.2% of the US adults between 18 and 54 years of age suffer from agoraphobia.
The phobia gets often compounded because of a person’s fear of a social embarrassment that an onset of panic attack can cause. This is referred to as social agoraphobia. Some people who suffer from agoraphobia fear open spaces, whereas some others feel anxious when left at home alone. Some individuals also feel a type of separation anxiety disorder when other individuals leave the house temporarily. Another associative disorder commonly experienced by persons suffering from agoraphobia is the fear of death, necrophobia.
Agoraphobia Symptoms And Treatment Options
It has been observed that the phobia occurs in women by as much as two times as in men. Some of the factors that can be attributed to this difference in occurrence in genders are as follows: Social and cultural traditions that stress on women’s inability to cope and encourage their helpless and dependent behaviors. Women seeking help more than men and getting diagnosed. Men tending to abuse alcohol to avoid anxiety and getting diagnosed as alcoholics instead.
Research does not show the existence of a clear single reason for the gender difference.
Agoraphobia is treatable though and there are some fantastic treatment programs that really do work. The one that we particularly recommend:
The causes for this phobia are not clearly known even today. However, this condition has been associated with the presence of a stressful environment, other anxiety disorders or substance abuse. Research studies have linked agoraphobia with difficulty that some people experience in spatial orientation. The vestibular function in a disproportionate number of people having agoraphobia has been found to be weak and therefore they rely on visual signals. When the visual cues that are available to them are limited or overwhelming (as in open spaces or in crowds), they may experience disorientation. The onset of agoraphobia has also been connected with chronic usage of sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines and tranquilizers.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Physical. Physical symptoms can be rare as most people who have agoraphobia avoid situations which they think can trigger panic. However, when they do occur, they can include: Increased heart beat, rapid or shallow breathing, flushing, feeling hot, stomach upset, diarrhea, trouble in swallowing, sweat breakout, nausea, trembling, dizziness and light headedness.
Psychological. Fear that others will notice panic attack which causes embarrassment and humiliation.Fear that the heart may stop and result in death at the time of a panic attack.Fear that he/she may go crazy.Low self-esteem and self-confidence.Depression.General feeling of anxiety and dread.
Behavioral. Avoidance: Agoraphobics avoid situations and environments that are likely to trigger anxiety.Reassurance: An agoraphobic will need the reassurance of another person.Safety behavior: A person suffering from this phobia needs to take or have with them something when they face situations or go to places that can trigger anxiety.Escape: The agoraphobic leaves a place or situation that is causing him/her stress and goes straight back home.
Agoraphobia Treatment Options
Cognitive behavioral treatments. Exposure treatment: This treatment method may provide relief that is long lasting to people with agoraphobia and panic disorder. The focus of this treatment should be elimination of subclinical and residual agoraphobic avoidance and not just panic attacks. Cognitive restructuring: The treatment involves coaching an agoraphobic by means of a dianoetic discussion. The intention is to substitute beliefs that are irrational and counterproductive with factual as well as beneficial ones. Relaxation techniques: An agoraphobic can be taught to develop relaxation skills which will him/her to stop or prevent panic and anxiety symptoms.
Treatments using medications. Anti-depressants belonging to the class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) may be prescribed by doctors for anxiety disorders. Such medications include paroxetine, sertraline and fluoxetine. Other medications that are commonly prescribed for agoraphobia include benzodiazepine tranquilizers, tricyclic antidepressants and MAO inhibitors. Generally, a treatment using antidepressants is supplemented with exposure or cognitive behavior therapy. This is because studies show that they work better in combination.
Alternative treatments. Eye movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR): This therapy is recommended if the cognitive-behavioral approaches are not effective or if a person has developed agoraphobia following trauma. Self-help or support groups, stress management techniques, meditation, visualization techniques and aerobic exercises have been found to be helpful to agoraphobics.
Natural Remedies. Herbs that are recommended as remedies for include nerve relaxants and those that have antispasmodic properties. Some such herbs are chamomile (matricaria recutita), kava (piper methysticum) and passionflower (passiflora incarnate).
Agoraphobia – Self Help Treatment
There are a number of excellent self help programs on the market today – our favorites are all proven, simple and fast solutions to agoraphobia and, indeed, anxiety of all types. Why not check out the following and see what you think?