Do you ever have an intense fear of going out in public places alone? Do you felt afraid of riding alone on a bus, or going to the store? If yes, then perhaps you may have an anxiety disorder, termed “Agoraphobia”.
You may also become extremely afraid only by the thought of being out in public areas. But don’t be afraid at all, life is given to you not for living in fear but to face the fear with courage. As treatments are there for you to fight with such fears. So instead of frightening and worrying, just talk to your mental health professional, who will help you out with this situation.
Here, let us know every detail about agoraphobia, its symptoms, causes, and treatment.
“Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder or an acute irrational fear of being in a difficult and embarrassing situation where it seemed somewhat difficult to escape or fear of not being helped if things go wrong.”
Agoraphobia is a complex condition. It is not simply a fear of going in open spaces, because of this fear or anxiety, people with agoraphobia also avoid to visit new places and situation which are not familiar to them, including,
- Open or enclosed places
- Public transportation
- Places outside the home
This fear could be so overwhelming that you may even feel unable to leave your home!
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
A person with agoraphobia sometimes feels anxiety. There could be a combination of fear and other feelings and physical symptoms that can be mild or severe.
One can experience the following symptoms of agoraphobia:
- Fear of being in a crowd
- Fear of losing control in public places
- Fear of going away from home for a long time
- Fear of being in public transport
- Remain estranged or detached
- Remain anxious or agitated
Physical Symptoms of Agoraphobia
If agoraphobia coincides with panic attacks, then there would occur a series of wide range physical symptoms, as:
- Hyperventilation or trouble in breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Feeling sick
- Sudden chills or flushing
What Causes Agoraphobia?
What causes agoraphobia is still unknown. However, several factors are known that can play a role in increasing your risk of developing agoraphobia, such as:
- Any other anxiety disorder like generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder
- History of sexual or physical abuse
- Brain chemistry
- Any other phobia as social phobia and claustrophobia
- Substance abuse problem
- Health condition and genetics
- Environmental stress and other learning experiences
About 30% to 50% of people with agoraphobia, even before any symptoms of agoraphobia arouse experience panic attacks.
How Agoraphobia is diagnosed?
If anxiety is interfering with your routine life, and you are thinking that you have agoraphobia, then immediately seek the help of your psychiatrist or primary care physician. Your healthcare professional will take your interview and ask about the symptoms you feel, such as when the symptoms appear or started and how often you experienced those symptoms. Your psychiatrist will also ask a question related to your medical history and the history of your family as well. Some blood tests will also be performed to check out the physical causes of your symptoms.
Questions that the healthcare professional asks may include:
- Are there any situations or areas which you avoid because of your fear? And why you feel afraid?
- Do you feel nervous or stressed whenever you leave your house?
- For your shopping and other works, do you depend on others?
Based on the nature and severity of your symptoms, your healthcare provider can diagnose agoraphobia. You need to be honest and open with your healthcare provider so that he can know everything about your condition and provide you with the best possible treatment.
Treatment for Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia is often treated with a combination of treatment methods:
Medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
The following prescription of medicine may help in the treatment of agoraphobia:
- Benzodiazepines: as these are sedative medications, these provide relief from the symptoms of anxiety in a relatively short period.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: these are also known as SSRIs, are antidepressants and help with agoraphobia.
It is also called talk therapy, in which meetings with your therapist or other mental health professional are conducted regularly. This therapy provides you an opportunity to talk about your fears and other issues that are increasing your fears. Some medications are also used with psychotherapy for better effects.
This is the most common form of psychotherapy used in the treatment of agoraphobia. CBT helps to know the deformed feelings and views which are related to agoraphobia. Through this therapy, you learn how to work in a stressful situation by replacing your distorted views with healthy ones, and this helps to allow you to retrieve a sense of control in your life.
This therapy also helps in overcoming your feelings of fear by exposing you slowly and gently to the situations you fear the most. With the help of this therapy, your fear vanishes over time.
Lifestyle changes may help you lessen your everyday anxiety. You can change your lifestyle by:
- Taking regular exercise
- Practicing relaxation techniques
- Eating a healthy diet
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol and caffeine
Risk factors of Agoraphobia
Following are the risk factors that can develop agoraphobia:
- Nervous and anxious nature
- Having panic disorder and other phobias
- Close relation with an agoraphobia’s patient
- Stressful life events, like abuse, being attacked, or the death of a loved one
Overcoming or Coping Agoraphobia
You can overcome your agoraphobia on your own along with help from a mental health professional. Take good care of yourself. Take your prescribed medications regularly. Practice the techniques which you have to learn from your therapist. Do not avoid yourself to go in places or situations you fear visiting and which spark anxiety in you. Through the support of your friends, family, and healthcare professionals, you will begin to manage your condition, can cope successfully with agoraphobia, and ultimately, you will return to an independent and active life.
Does agoraphobia go away?
Agoraphobia goes away as it is a treatable condition. But it could be a lifelong problem if not treated on time as it typically develops in the very first year a person starts experiencing unexpected and non-stop panic attacks. Therefore, you must seek the help of a professional as soon as you feel the symptoms.
If you want to heal from agoraphobia, you and your loved ones will need patience. Your mental health specialists will review your symptoms, diagnose your condition, make a treatment plan, and provide you with a better and safe recovery plan. Around one-third of people with agoraphobia ultimately get a full recovery and stay healthy free from its symptoms.
Is agoraphobia common?
Agoraphobia is more common in females as compared to males. It usually begins at the ages between 18 and 35. In the USA almost 1% to 2% of adults have agoraphobia. 2% of adolescents suffer from agoraphobia.
In the UK alone, 2 out of 100 people have panic disorder, and it is thought that every third one will develop agoraphobia.
How to reduce the risk of Agoraphobia?
It is difficult to reduce the risk of agoraphobia as there is no way of prevention from agoraphobia. However, the more you avoid the situations or place you afraid of, the more you tend to develop and increase anxiety. In life, if ever you feel a mild fear of going out in places that are safe to go before your fear becomes so overwhelming; try hard to visits those places over and over again. And if you feel any difficulty in going alone, seek the help of your family members or friends and ask them to go with you or you can take professional help!
Written By: Sonia Saba