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How Can I Deal with Agoraphobia?

Do you ever experience fear when you are in a specific place or situation? Does such place or situation make you feel trapped, helpless, or even embarrassed?

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which an individual may do all that they can to avoid a certain place or situation because it causes them to panic and gives them a sense of feeling helpless, or they feel embarrassed, and/or trapped. For example, individuals may fear using public transportation, being in opened or closed spaces, being in a crowd, or even stand in line. Such fear may be caused by the fact that there may not be an easy way to avoid the situation if they do get an anxiety or panic attack and as a result, such individuals often don’t feel safe in public spaces.

What are some of the symptoms of Agoraphobia?

  • Individuals are scared to be leave home alone
  • Individuals tend to be fearful of crowds or waiting in line
  • Individuals tend to avoid and are fearful of enclosed spaces (i.e. elevators, small stores, or movie theaters)
  • Individuals also tend to avoid open spaces and may be afraid of them (i.e. parking lots, malls, or bridges)
  • Individuals tend to be afraid of public transportation (i.e. buses, planes, or trains)

When experiencing such fears, individuals may:

  • Have feelings of feeling hot or cold
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or feel that they might faint
  • Their heart begins to pound at a fast rate
  • Have trouble swallowing
  • Sweat, tremble or shake

What causes Agoraphobia?

Although there is not one known cause, it is believed that genetics, health conditions, an individuals temperament, environmental stress, and learning experiences may all play a role in the development of such disorder.

What are some of the risk factors that can trigger the development of Agoraphobia?

  • Existence of panic disorder or other phobias
  • Having an excessive fear or avoidance when responding to panic attacks
  • Experiencing stressful life events (i.e. abuse or death of a loved one)

How is Agoraphobia treated?

  • Psychotherapy
    • The most effective form to treat Agoraphobia is believed to be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which teaches an individual some strategies on how to better tolerate their anxiety, it teaches them how to recognize the factors that may trigger their attacks, and how to cope with them
  • Medication
    • Anti-depressants may be used to treat such disorder, and in some cases, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed

What can I do to help myself deal with Agoraphobia?

  • Stick to your treatment plan
    • Stay consistent with the treatment plan that has been prescribed to you whether it is therapy or medication. Ask questions and check in on a regular basis with your therapist and/or primary healthcare provider
  • Challenge yourself and try not to avoid those situations or places that cause you fear
  • Learn calming skills
    • Work with your therapist so that you can find different ways to distract your mind from that that causes you anxiety (i.e. yoga, meditation, or massages)
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs, including caffeine
  • Practice self-care
    • Stay active
    • Eat healthy
    • Get enough sleep
  • Join a support group
    • Connect and learn from those that may be experiencing similar situations as you are