Agoraphobia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Agoraphobia[i] is an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety symptoms in situations where the person perceives their environment as unsafe with no easy way to escape. In Greek, the word “agoraphobia” means ” fear of the marketplace.” Agoraphobia affects about 1.7% of adults. Women are affected twice as often as men.[ii] The condition usually begins in early adulthood and becomes less common in old age.[iii]It is rare in children.[iv]
Patients of this normal social nervousness dread entering practically any new circumstance, particularly one in which they believe they may need control or safety. Some agoraphobics dread groups or places of clamoring social action (for example, at a commercial center), and some dread open transportation. Some start to freeze when they wind up in the center of huge, open spaces. In extraordinary cases, agoraphobics decline to leave their homes through and through, wanting to live, work, and associate while never leaving their “safety or comfort zone.”
“You may have forgotten how good your world can be.” – is a line from a song written by the band Incubus keeping in mind the plight of agoraphobia.[v]
Agoraphobia is not something that happens to these patients suddenly. It’s usually a result of a past traumatic experience acting as a trigger for agoraphobic symptoms.
Causes and Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia usually runs in families. Traumatic events like the death of a loved one, being abused as a child, or being attacked may trigger the condition. Usually, genetic and environmental factors combine to develop this phobia.
Patients with agoraphobia:
- Are most likely highly-sensitive persons ;
- Are alienated, and keep finding excuses to avoid social interaction ;
- Are in distress, feeling very lonely and isolated ;
- Are feeling more trapped by the day ;
- Are constantly feeling insecure ;
- Are perfectionist ;
- Need to be in control ;
- Are unable to leave their home without a trusted person, in severe cases, they do not leave their secure space at all ;
- Are afraid of being in places where it is hard to get away from. For example, public transportation, shopping malls, concerts… ;
- Often suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.
Symptoms of agoraphobia
The symptoms of agoraphobia appear every time the patient encounters the condition and may last for more than six months. The physical symptoms of agoraphobia may include the symptoms of panic attacks such as:
- Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
- Difficult breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling insecure, numb, or shivering
- Chest pain
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Feeling a loss of control
- Diarrhea or upset stomach
If you recognize the above-mentioned physical and mental symptoms, it is time to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist immediately. It is possible to start cognitive behavioral therapy online.
It is almost impossible to resolve agoraphobia without treatment. Options for agoraphobia treatment include therapy and medication.
Medications used to treat depression such as benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), etc. are sometimes prescribed for agoraphobia treatment.[vi] Always keep in mind that benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are highly addictive before beginning this treatment.
Even though medications are used as a core treatment for some disorders characterized by high-stress levels, they are not used to treat agoraphobic manifestations. Drugs are given to agoraphobic patients to quiet them down and lower the frequency and intensity of panic or anxiety attacks. The principal issue is not being able to distinguish between a “safe” and “risky” environment or situation. So agoraphobics have to comprehend the distinction. This differentiation is impossible to achieve using medication. So agoraphobics must be treated in some other manner.
Some persons with agoraphobia could take the first step to overcome this issue by utilizing medications. Be that as it may, agoraphobics need to comprehend that there is no compelling reason to affect any region being “safe” or “dangerous.” Only medications can’t fix this off-the-base distinction.
Typically, the treatment is done by counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). [vii]CBT resolves agoraphobic conditions in half of the patients.
Systematic desensitization can give enduring help to most patients with panic attacks and agoraphobia. The disappearance of leftover and sub-clinical agoraphobic shirking, and not just fits of anxiety, ought to be the purpose of this therapy treatment.
Among alternative treatments, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been studied as a possible treatment for agoraphobia, with poor results.
A combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered the best option for agoraphobia treatment.[viii]
As an agoraphobic sufferer, you might not be able to visit your mental health professional to discuss your symptoms. You might not feel able to leave your house. You can always ask for a telephone appointment for therapy if you suffer from the symptoms mentioned previously. Also, don’t hesitate to discuss the issue with your loved ones. Remember when” I “is replaced by “We” even illness becomes wellness.
[i] American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 217–221, 938, ISBN 978-0890425558
[ii] American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 217–221, 938, ISBN 978-0890425558
[iii] American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 217–221, 938, ISBN 978-0890425558
[iv] American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 217–221, 938, ISBN 978-0890425558
[vi] Lydiard, R. Bruce; Ballenger, James C. (16 June 1987). “Antidepressants in panic disorder and agoraphobia”. Journal of Affective Disorders. 13 (2): 153–168. doi:10.1016/0165-0327(87)90020-6. PMID 2960710.
[vii] Pompoli, A; Furukawa, TA; Imai, H; Tajika, A; Efthimiou, O; Salanti, G (13 April 2016). “Psychological therapies for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia in adults: a network meta-analysis”. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 4: CD011004. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011004.pub2. PMC 7104662. PMID 27071857.