Agoraphobia – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that sets in fear of places and situations that might cause panic. This disorder causes affected people to avoid places or situations, where escape may be difficult. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.
What causes agoraphobia?
What exactly causes agoraphobia is not known to doctors and scientists. Agoraphobia sometimes occurs when a person has had a panic attack and began to fear situations that might lead to another panic attack.
What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
People with agoraphobia avoid places or situations because they don’t feel safe in public areas. The fear is worse when the place is crowded.
The following are the typical symptoms of agoraphobia:
- Staying indoors for long periods
- Being afraid of places where escape might be difficult
- Being afraid of losing control in a public place
- Being fearful of spending time alone
- Feelings of helplessness
- Depending on others
- Having an unusual temper or agitation
- Feeling detached or separated from others
The following physical symptoms can occur with agoraphobia:
- Racing heart
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or other stomach distress
- Shortness of breath
How is agoraphobia diagnosed?
The doctor will conduct a detailed review of your symptoms including the review of your history of agoraphobia. The doctor will also get a description of the behavior from you, your family, or friends.
How is agoraphobia treated?
The goal of agoraphobia treatment would be to help you feel and function better. The success of treatment usually depends in part on the severity of the agoraphobia. Treatment mostly includes medicines, talk therapy, or a combination of both.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines that are generally used to treat depression. These medicines may be helpful for this disorder. Antidepressant medications may prevent your symptoms or make them less severe.
The medicines may include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most often the first choice of antidepressant.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another choice.
- Other antidepressant medicines or medicines used to treat seizures.
The doctor may also prescribe medicines called sedatives or hypnotics. These medicines may be prescribed if your symptoms are very severe or when you are about to be exposed to something that always brings on your symptoms.
The doctor may recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It is a type of talk therapy. It involves several visits to a mental health professional over several weeks. CBT helps you change the thoughts that cause your condition and its symptoms.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you:
- Understand and control distorted feelings or views of stressful events or situations
- Learn stress management and relaxation techniques
- Relax and then imagining the things that cause the anxiety, working from the least fearful to the most fearful (called systematic desensitization and exposure therapy)
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.