What is Agoraphobia?(A full guide)
In this brief guide, we will be discussing agoraphobia, the symptoms of this kind of fear, and the situations that may trigger this fear.
Overview of agoraphobia
Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations or places where escape might be complicated or that assistance wouldn’t be available if things go out of the way.
Many people assume this kind of phobia is simply a fear of open spaces but it’s really a more complex illness.
Someone with this kind of phobia may be afraid of:
- Moving to another place using a public transport
- Walking around in a shopping centre
- Getting out of the house
If someone with this kind of phobia is located in a distressing scenario, they’ll often experience the symptoms of a panic attack, such as:
- rapid and speedy heartbeat
- rapid breathing or hyperventilating
- feeling hot and sweaty sensations
- feeling sick
People with this kind of phobia are anxious about the mentioned situations that they would prefer to leave the house with someone they can trust.
These people would prefer to buy their groceries in online stores or ask someone else to do it for them.
This is considered as avoidant behaviour in people who have different phobias.
Symptoms of agoraphobia
The symptoms of agoraphobia that are commonly manifested in affected patients are the following:
- Fear of leaving home alone
- Worried about crowds or waiting in line
- Nervous about enclosed spaces, such as movie theaters, small stores or elevators
- Fear of open spaces, such as parking lots, malls or bridges
- Worried about using public transportation, such as a bus, train or plane
These kinds of situations can make affected people feel extreme fear because they feel that these situations can trap and get them away from their safe places which are in the home.
Additional symptoms that may manifest in affected people with this kind of fear are the following:
- Fear or anxiety almost always manifest from exposure to the situation
- Your fear or anxiety is too extreme to the actual danger of the situation
- You get away from the situation, you need someone to accompany you, or you endure the situation but are excessively distressed
- You experience causes you significant distress or problems with social situations, work or other activities in your life because of the fear, anxiety or avoidance
- Your fear and withdrawal often lasts six months or longer
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Panic attacks and agoraphobia
As mentioned before, people with agoraphobia tend to have comorbid panic attacks or panic disorder.
Panic disorder is another kind of anxiety where panic attacks can happen and the affected person excessively worries about getting another panic attack.
People with this kind of anxiety disorder will feel that they are about to die or lose control.
The fear of a panic attack in panic disorder makes these affected people withdraw from situations where they are more likely to have these panic attacks.
The symptoms and signs of this kind of attack can include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Trouble breathing or a feeling of choking
- Chest ache or pressure
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Feeling shaky, tingling or numb
- Over Sweating
- Sudden and unexpected flushing or chills
- Upset stomach or diarrhoea
- Feeling a loss of control in things
- extreme fear of dying
What causes agoraphobia in people?
Agoraphobia may be caused by several factors that can also cause panic attacks in affected people.
It can arise by associating panic attacks with the places or situations where they occurred and then avoiding them.
Some people with agoraphobia have no background of having panic attacks.
With these affected people, they are more likely to have this kind of fear due to a fear of crime, illness, terrorism or being in an accident.
Traumatic experiences and a family history of agoraphobia can contribute to a patient’s inclination to fear open spaces.
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How are people with agoraphobia diagnosed by mental health professionals?
Agoraphobia is diagnosed by mental health professionals through the knowledge of the signs and symptoms of this kind of fear that are exhibited by the client.
Mental health professionals will ask clients when these symptoms began and how frequently they are encountering them.
These mental health professionals will be asking about your medical background and your family background of agoraphobia or other related disorders.
These kinds of professionals will also use blood tests to help know if a physical condition may be causing the symptoms of this kind of fear.
To be diagnosed with agoraphobia, the client’s signs and symptoms should meet the required diagnostic criteria indicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition.
This kind of manual of mental disorders is used by mental health professionals to guide them in diagnosing people who may have psychological disorders.
The client needs to feel distressed and anxious in at least 2 of the following situations that can trigger agoraphobia :
- using public utility vehicles such as a train or bus
- Being situated in open spaces such as a store or parking lot
- Being placed in enclosed spaces such as an elevator or car
- being surrounded by a crowd
- Being separated from home alone
As mentioned before, agoraphobia and panic attacks can co-occur together which have additional symptoms and signs that need to be taken into account.
The client must have recurrent attacks of this feeling and these kinds of attacks are followed by the following symptoms:
- a fear of having additional panic attacks
- a fear of the outcomes of panic attacks such as having a heart attack or losing control
- An alteration in your behaviour as an outcome of the panic attacks
The client will not be diagnosed with agoraphobia if medical professionals found out that the symptoms were caused by another medical condition.
These kinds of symptoms should also not be triggered by other psychological disorders such as substance abuse disorder.
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Who are at risk of developing agoraphobia?
People who are at risk of developing agoraphobia are women than men.
Most people with this kind of phobia will have this phobia at the age of 35.
As mentioned before, specific traumatic events can trigger the onset of agoraphobia.
These traumatic experiences may include experiencing the death of a loved one, being abused, and being assaulted such as being robbed in a public place.
People who are susceptible to the effects of anxiety and those people who have first-degree relatives who have agoraphobia are more likely to have this kind of phobia.
Available treatments for people with agoraphobia
Like other specific phobias, people with agoraphobia can be treated by different forms of psychological interventions.
The following are the psychological interventions used and effective against this kind of phobia and some of these psychological interventions are combined together to result in greater effectiveness.
Psychotherapy is where the client and the therapist will be talking about the mental health problem at hand.
This is the client’s chance to express his or her fears about being public places without the fear of judgment.
Psychotherapy has been used while the client is taking anti-anxiety medications to make sure that agoraphobia is treated.
This psychological intervention is often taken in short-term sessions which have been proven to be effective for people with specific phobias.
You can learn more about the formulation of psychotherapy by buying this book here.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for people with agoraphobia
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is the most prescribed and used form of psychological intervention for people with specific phobias such as agoraphobia.
This therapy can help people with this fear to realize what may be the negative thoughts that are associated with this phobia.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy can also help people with agoraphobia to know what to do when they are in their feared situations such as the public place and in this case, they will learn to retain control of their emotions in the process.
Exposure therapy is another form of psychotherapy that has been effective for people who have specific phobias such as agoraphobia.
In the therapy sessions, the client will be gently exposed to situations that trigger this fear such as crowded places.
Exposure therapy can help you minimize your agoraphobia in the shortest amount of time in therapy.
Some anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can help you minimize your tendencies to feel your agoraphobia symptoms and panic attack symptoms.
The following are the mentioned medications for this phobia:
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications such as paroxetine or fluoxetine
- selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor medications such as venlafaxine or duloxetine
- tricyclic antidepressant medications such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline
- anti-anxiety tablets such as alprazolam or clonazepam
Lifestyle alterations that people with agoraphobia will take don’t directly cure this phobia but it can help reduce the symptoms of this phobia in the long-term.
The client can try the following regimens for him or her to minimize the anxious fear:
- exercising daily to enhance the development of brain chemicals that make you feel happier and calm
- eating a healthy and balanced diet that consists of whole grains, lean protein, and vegetables so you feel better in general
- applying regular meditation or deep breathing techniques to minimize anxiety and fight the beginning of panic attacks
In the duration of your prescribed treatment in healing agoraphobia, you should prevent taking dietary supplements or herbal medicines.
These natural medications have not been investigated to be effective against this phobia and may cause adverse side effects if you are taking prescribed medications with these natural remedies.
In this brief guide, we have discussed agoraphobia, the symptoms of this kind of fear, and the situations that may trigger this fear.
If you have any questions about the information on agoraphobia, please let us know and the team will happily answer your inquiries.
FAQs: What is Agoraphobia
How does agoraphobia affect a person’s life?
Agoraphobia can affect a person’s life by making them forced to stay in the home and never going outside which can deter a person’s social life.
These affected people aren’t able to leave for a long time such as for days, weeks, and even years.
This can happen since people with this kind of fear are afraid of going into situations where their panic attacks are triggered.
Does agoraphobia ever go away?
Yes, agoraphobia does go away but it depends on the onset of this kind of fear in affected people.
The age of onset of this kind of fear starts between the adolescent years and early adulthood years in the ages of 13 to 35.
How does agoraphobia start?
Agoraphobia starts with having one or more panic attacks in a crowded situation.
Although not all people with this kind of fear will have panic attacks will have this kind of fear.
However, they tend to be uncomfortable in situations where they are surrounded by crowds of people that they can’t escape easily.
How is agoraphobia diagnosed?
Agoraphobia is diagnosed when the patient feels anxious about a crowded situation and being in that crowded situation.
This kind of symptom can be assessed through a psychological evaluation filled with psychological tests
What is the opposite of agoraphobia?
The opposite of agoraphobia is claustrophobia.
This kind of fear is the phobia of being in situations where the space is too minimal and everything is just too tight for the affected person.
Although there are some cases that agoraphobia and claustrophobia can happen at the same time in an affected person.
Cleveland Clinic. Agoraphobia.
MAYO CLINIC. Agoraphobia.
MedicalNewsToday. What you need to know about agoraphobia.
PSYCOM. Agoraphobia: The Fear of Entering Open or Crowded Places.
WebMD. What Is Agoraphobia?.