Agoraphobia: What is it?

It is generally understood that Agoraphobia is simply the fear of being in open spaces or having a hard time feeling safe. But it is way more complicated than that. 

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes intense episodes of fear when the person with Agoraphobia finds him/herself in a situation where escape might be intricate. That situation can be as routine as being on public transport.

The literal definition of Agoraphobia is derived from the Greek word agora, which means public market.

This situation is quite common but less understood in many societies around the world.

Who can have Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia tends to start in early adulthood; most people develop Agoraphobia before the age of 35 years.

Despite the cases might be frequent in young adults, this disorder can happen at any age, be it childhood or elderliness.

Women are more often treated with Agoraphobia than men.

A person might be at a higher risk of getting Agoraphobia if he/she has the following conditions:

In case you’re linked to someone with the same disease.

Panic disorder and other phobias.

Going through a tough time in life.

Generally anxious or nervous temperament. 

Symptoms of Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia can cause several symptoms, including physical and behavioral symptoms. It is essential to understand those symptoms to head in the right direction. 

Common fears associated with Agoraphobia:

Being in enclosed spaces. 

Being in open spaces.

Being in crowded places. 

Being alone outside of the home.

Standing in line.

Using public transport. 

Any situation that seems dangerous and help might not be available can cause fear, increasing until the person has a panic attack. 

Physical Symptoms associated with Agoraphobia:

As Agoraphobia occurs along with panic attacks, it has physical symptoms as well, which include:

Shortness of Breath 

Racing heart

Sweating 

Chest pain

Dizziness 

Faintness

Vomiting

Flushing and chills

Choking

Trembling

Feeling sick

Feeling disoriented 

Behavioral Symptoms:

A person with Agoraphobia may start avoiding situations that trigger Agoraphobia and may develop behavioral symptoms:

Changes in general behavior at home and outside. 

Avoid social interactions.

Avoid going outside of the home.

Misusing alcohol and drug.

Treatment & Diagnosis:

To diagnose Agoraphobia, one needs to analyze a person’s actions and recall past experiences. The doctor will start his list of questions about your symptoms by asking when they began and how frequently you feel them. Individuals will inquire about the drugs and family medical history. Physicians will likely order blood tests to detect medical conditions.

A diagnosis of Agoraphobia can be found out if:

You are nervous about being in a crowded location or situation, where escape or assistance could be harrowing if you feel startled or have a panic attack.

You stop “what you do not want” or “what you fear” even though they are inevitable.

There could be no other underlying cause for your symptoms.

You may be referred to a doctor for a more thorough examination if there’s any question about your diagnosis.

Learning & Understanding:

It is essential to learn Agoraphobia and its relation with Panic Disorder to control your symptoms.

Learning techniques to control your emotions to better cope up with your attacks can be of great help.

Some of the techniques that might be useful in a difficult situation are:

Staying where you are and not trying to run away.

It is better to concentrate on anything less scary.

Breathing slowly and deeply to make you calm.

Trying to challenge and deal with the situation that you fear.

Trying to avoid negative thoughts by thinking about positivity and peace.

Not trying to fight an attack, as it might make the symptoms worse. 

Some lifestyle changes that can help greatly:

If you do daily workouts, you will be mentally and physically balanced.

A healthy diet is also important as a low diet may make Agoraphobia symptoms worse.

Stop using alcohol and drugs.

Avoid taking drinks that have caffeine, as caffeine has a stimulant that may worsen your symptoms. 

Psychological Therapies:

If the symptoms do not go away, then treatments can be helpful.

Psychological Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an option for people with Agoraphobia.

Medications

Medications like antidepressants can help, but it is always best to consult a doctor to decide the treatment.

Specific medical treatments will alleviate the symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks. These are:

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as paroxetine or fluoxetine, selective serotonin, and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, such as venlafaxine (Effexor) or duloxetine tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline anti-anxiety medications, such as alprazolam or clonazepam.

Outlook

A third of people who have Agoraphobia fully recover from the disease. Some make considerable improvement and still suffer from substantial nerves.

Others would still need to be patient as they adapt back to living life outside of their comfort zone. Treatment is more extended than required and takes a considerable amount of time and resources. Therapy could take a very long time without medications.

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