Agoraphobia: Symptoms and Treatment


What Is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that entails an extreme and irrational fear of an inability to escape a difficult or embarrassing situation. This disorder is characterized by anxiety that makes sufferers avoid situations where they might feel trapped, helpless, embarrassed, or panicked. Agoraphobia can occur on its own or together with other mental health conditions like panic disorder.

This fear usually leads to persistent avoidance behaviors, in which the sufferers avoid certain places and situations in which they fear panic may occur. For instance, some usually avoid circumstances like driving, leaving the comfort of home, going to a shopping mall, traveling by airplane, or even staying in a crowded area.

These avoidance behaviors can make sufferers` lives become isolating and restrictive. Agoraphobia can cause some damage to people’s personal and professional life because heightened fears and avoidance behaviors can cause difficulty in everyday experiences.

Symptoms of Agoraphobia

  • Fear of leaving home
  • Fear of losing control in a public place
  • Fear of places where escape might be difficult
  • Fear of public transportation
  • Fear of open spaces, shopping centers, and bridges
  • Fear of enclosed spaces or buildings
  • Fear of being in social situations alone

When forced to endure any of these dreaded situations, a person may experience a panic attack that causes symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of choking
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Rapid heartbeat

Agoraphobia Versus Other Phobias

anxietyThe avoidance behaviors in agoraphobia are different from the diagnostic criteria of a specific phobia. Here are some examples:

A person who suffers agoraphobia may avoid traveling by airplane due to a fear of having a panic attack on a plane, but not necessarily suffer aerophobia.
A person with agoraphobia may avoid crowds and fear the embarrassment of having a panic attack in public. As much as they are similar, such a fear is not the same as social anxiety disorder.

Causes of Agoraphobia

Experts are yet to ascertain the exact causes of agoraphobia, however, there are some risk factors that may increase one’ss risk of developing the condition. Here are some of the risk factors:

  • A family history of agoraphobia
  • A history of abuse or trauma
  • Suffering from another anxiety disorder such as social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder 
  • Dealing with a phobia
  • Brain chemistry

How to Diagnose Agoraphobia

To diagnose agoraphobia, your doctor will first need to assess your symptoms and check for any underlying medical conditions that may be responsible for the symptoms.

Before being diagnosed with agoraphobia, these symptoms must be evident:

  • Having fear in at least two different situations such as crowded areas, open spaces, or public transportation
  • Having fear that is out of proportion to the threat
  • Exhibit avoidance behaviors or distress that disrupts work, school, and relationships
  • Experience these symptoms for at least six months

How to Treat Agoraphobia

People who develop agoraphobia with a panic disorder begin to experience symptoms within the first year, with recurring and persistent panic attacks. Sufferers who don`t get early medical attention may have a worsened condition. Treatment options for this condition may include a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy for Agoraphobia

Treating agoraphobia with psychotherapy may require some systematic desensitization, in which the sufferer gradually confronts avoided situations with the guidance of their therapist.

Medications for Agoraphobia

SchizophreniaHere are some medications that can help manage certain symptoms of agoraphobia:

  • Antidepressants such as selective serotonin-norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants.
  • Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax (alpraxolam) and Klonopin (clonozepam)

Coping Strategies for People Living with Agoraphobia

In addition to seeking help from a mental health professional, there are lifestyle changes people with agoraphobia can practice to manage their symptoms. Here are some of them:

  • Practicing stress management techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Eating a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Exercising regularly

Mental Health and Anxiety Facts

  • There are various treatments for mental health problems, some of which are therapy, yoga, OTC medication, and some other types of medication.
  • Genetics, injury, illness, and traumatic life experiences are the most common causes of mental illness.
  • Mental illness patients are not necessarily violent; only 3-5% of violent acts are attributed to people with severe mental illness.
  • Mental illnesses can affect people of any religion, age, race, or social class.
  • Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
  • To prevent mental health illness, you`re advised to communicate with family and friends, especially during stressful periods.
  • People who have lived through a major disaster are twice at risk of mental health issues than those who haven`t.
  • One in five Americans has experienced some form of mental illness.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world and accounts for over 800,000 deaths globally every year.
  • Seeking immediate medical attention to trauma can prevent mental health disorders, especially in children and adolescents.
  • People who belong to the LGBTQ community are twice as likely as straight people to suffer mental illnesses.
  • Seek treatment immediately you observe symptoms of poor mental health.
    depression, or schizophrenia.
  • Employers who hire people with mental health issues report good attendance, punctuality as well as motivation, and excellent performance.
  • People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees.
  • 50% of adults in the United States who have had a problem with substance abuse also suffer from mental illness.
  • Studies show that one in 10 young people has experienced major depression.
  • Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental illnesses receive treatment.
  • Getting adequate sleep, eating balanced meals, and exercising are vital positive lifestyle choices that can prevent mental health issues.
  • One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
  • One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, major
  • Only about 1/3 of people suffering from anxiety disorders receive adequate treatment or counseling.
  • Anxiety disorders can be a result of various factors such as trauma, stress buildup, withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, stress due to an illness, or family history of mental health issues.
  • Anxiety disorders can disrupt everyday activities such as school work, job performance, and relationships.
  • Anxiety comes with various physical and emotional symptoms.
  • Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of anxiousness or nervousness because they involve extreme fear or anxiety, and lead to reactions that are out of proportion.
  • Approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder, and many of them develop the symptoms before age 21.
  • About 50% of Americans diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
  • People who suffer generalized anxiety disorder experience nausea, dizziness, worsening worry or fear, irritability, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, and chronic fatigue over extended periods of time.
  • There are other common anxiety disorders such as specific phobias, selective mutism, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and social anxiety.
  • A number of other conditions such as eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, bipolar disorder, chronic pain, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are closely related to anxiety disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and will affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder affects 6.8 million adults in the United States, with women being twice as likely to be affected as men.