Agoraphobia is a fear-related anxiety disorder. A person with this disorder has a fear of being in places that may be difficult or embarrassing to get out of quickly or where help may not be available should a panic attack occur. As a result, these feared places are avoided.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Some typical symptoms of agoraphobia are:
• Fear of being alone
• Fear of being in crowded places, shopping malls, etc.
• Fear of losing control in a public place
• Fear of being in places difficult to get out of, such as an elevator
• Inability to leave one’s house
• Sense of helplessness
• Overdependence on others
• A sense that your body is unreal
Causes of Agoraphobia
The exact causes of agoraphobia are unknown, however it is believed to be caused by a combination of biology and genetics, life experiences, and the individual’s temperament and traits.
Agoraphobia is usually first experienced in late adolescence or early adulthood, however both younger children and older adults can develop it.
The following risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of getting agoraphobia:
• Having a panic disorder
• Experiencing stressful life events
• A tendency to be nervous or anxious
• Alcohol and substance use disorders
• Being female
Treatment of Agoraphobia
Both antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications are commonly used to treat agoraphobia. Anti-anxiety medications often reduce symptoms immediately, while antidepressants may take several weeks to take effect. Taking both medications simultaneously can increase the effectiveness.
Psychotherapy or counseling are also beneficial treatments. Cognitive behavior therapy, involves learning how to control both agoraphobia and panic attacks, as well as what triggers or worsens panic attacks. Breathing and relaxation techniques are also taught as beneficial coping skills.