Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety condition that causes the individual to avoid certain places or situations where they experience intense fear of becoming trapped. In turn, someone with agoraphobia may limit their movement or even just hole up at home due to this irrational fear.
Agoraphobia is one of the specific phobia disorders within the spectrum of anxiety disorders. An irrational fear of being trapped is at the heart of the disorder, which then leads to avoidance behaviors. Someone with agoraphobia may have initially experienced a few panic attacks. Panic attacks can be severe, causing symptoms that are like having a heart attack. Some individuals will then avoid all situations or trigger that they fear might ignite another panic attack and become agoraphobic.
Even anticipating the following situations may cause anxiety and distress. Some of the situations that trigger agoraphobia include:
The cause of agoraphobia is not well understood. Some of the possible factors that cause agoraphobia include:
An estimated 0.9% of U.S. adults had agoraphobia in the past year.
An estimated 1.3% of U.S. adults experience agoraphobia at some time in their lives.
Overall, our findings suggest that agoraphobia may be relatively common in the elderly, occurring in more than 10% of community-dwelling persons.
In most cases, agoraphobia is diagnosed in the later teen years or in early adulthood, and twice as many women are affected by the disorder as men.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
When someone with agoraphobia is confronted with a triggering situation they may experience the following symptoms:
Living with Agoraphobia
Living with agoraphobia means living each day under a list of demand imposed by the disorder. These are the limitations that the mind imposes over the individual in order to reduce the possibility of being in an anxiety provoking setting where you might be trapped. Some examples of these thoughts include:
These types of thoughts keep the individual so restricted that it begins to limit their freedom of mobility or imprisons them inside their home. This isolation then causes negative impacts across all aspects of life.
Treatment for Agoraphobia
A combination of psychotropic medications and psychotherapy composes the usual treatment route for agoraphobia. Together these treatment elements are more effective that either one on its own. In addition to these evidence-based methods, adding stress-reduction activities has been shown to help the individual cope with a surge of fear.
Medication. The primary type of medication used for treatment of agoraphobia is antidepressant drug therapy. The medications for agoraphobia include Prozac and Zoloft.
Psychotherapy. Short-term cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can teach individuals with agoraphobia to address irrational thoughts and worries, and then challenge the fears that lie behind them. Behaviors that flow from the irrational thought patterns are changed as the individual learns how to face their fears. Exposure therapy is useful as well.
Stress-reduction. There are several activities to try to incorporate into the lifestyle that will help to reduce anxiety and stress. Practicing yoga or meditation in the security of the home through apps or videos is helpful, and learning how to use deep breathing when encountering a triggering situation is an excellent coping skill.
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