What is Agoraphobia?
Fear is often the greatest trouble of a person. The mere thinking of fears can somehow build up a certain anxiety already so how much more if the situation is right in front? This is then called Agoraphobia, wherein the person fears to experience panic attacks in crowded places, tight spaces, or any unfamiliar place far away from home.
People mostly suffer from Agoraphobia starting at the age of 20 up to 40, and most of them are females. According to studies, people who have this condition are more afraid of the complication which is panic attacks.
Panic attacks arise when the epinephrine hormone is largely released in big amounts and set off the body’s acute stress response that may lead to; a very brisk heartbeat, palpitations, perspirations, nausea, quivers, vomiting, shortness of breath, light-headedness and tightness in the throat.
The person will tend to avoid panic attacks as much as possible or even the places where the person got the panic attack. The feeling of being embarrassed, cornered, or seeing that nobody can help if ever a panic attack occurs is a person with Agoraphobia’s greatest trauma.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia can be a mixture of fright, feelings and symptoms of the body. The common fears of the person with the mental disorder are; fear of having some time spent alone, fear of being in places with too many people, fear of wide and open spaces, fear of being in public transports or anywhere that might be difficult to escape, fear of losing self-control, and the fear of death.
A person with agoraphobia does not want to be alone and most of them are more dependent to others than themselves. Staying at home most of the time happens too as their minds are set that the house is their safe haven.
Other symptoms include:
- Pain in the chest
- A great feeling of discomfort
- Having a hard time of breathing
An individual with agoraphobia can also feel as though the body or the environment is surreal, upset, helpless and always detached from others.
These people tend to change their behaviors from time to time depending on the places and situations they’re currently in. They try their best to avoid situations that might trigger panic attacks. Some may become very sad and depressed to the point where they drown in drugs and alcohol. In worst cases, they commit suicide.
Diagnosis for Agoraphobia
The basis of the diagnosis for Agoraphobia is through the person’s signs and symptoms and the result of the interview with the health care provider. There is also a physical examination that can be done to know exactly what causes the symptoms.
To be diagnosed with agoraphobia, the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is being utilized.
The criteria for agoraphobia include uneasiness or extreme fright with about two or more situations as follows; trains or planes and any other public transports, open spaces like huge malls and parks, being in small and tight places like meeting rooms and small stores, in the middle of crowds, and being alone outside or away from home.
Treatments for Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia treatments usually include both medications and psychotherapy. Treating this kind of mental disorder might take some time or may be difficult but nevertheless, it’s a better way than not to be treated at all. Talk therapy or psychotherapy is when the patient with agoraphobia talks with the therapist to reduce the anxiety symptoms.
Among all the types of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy is one of the most effective. This behavioral therapy helps the patient through focusing on the activities that had been avoided due to anxiety by teaching and learning some specific skills.
This type of process can show big improvement and build-up the initial success of decreasing fear. If the person is scared to leave the house, psychotherapy can also be applied outside of the house or even through phone calls, emails, and a place that’s considered safe by the patient. Family support can also help complete the patient’s treatment plan.
Another treatment is through medications wherein the health care providers prescribe the types of medicine. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be prescribed for treating panic disorders. Another is benzodiazepines which is an anti-anxiety medicine that relieves the symptoms of anxiety on short period of time.
A health care provider usually prescribes more doses of antidepressants at the beginning of the treatment and later on decreases it when the treatment is about to finish. The reason for this is to prevent side effects which similar with panic attacks.
Agoraphobia can have a great effect on the person’s daily activities. If the person is not treated or the condition is already severe, some people are kept inside the house or tend to stay inside the house for a very long time.
Regular routines like visiting loved ones, making friends, going to school, performing tasks and any other activities will be missed. Being independent on one’s self usually happens too. Further complications could be; other mental health disorders, depression, loneliness, drugs, alcohol, and a total hopelessness.
- Bienvenu OJ, Onyike CU, Stein MB, Chen LS, Samuels J, Nestadt G, Eaton WW (2006). “Agoraphobia in adults: incidence and longitudinal relationship with panic”. Br J Psychiatry 188: 432–8.
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- Bandelow B, Broocks A, Pekrun G, George A, Meyer T, Pralle L, Bartmann U, Hillmer-Vogel U, Rüther E (2000). “The use of the Panic and Agoraphobia Scale (P & A) in a controlled clinical trial”. Pharmacopsychiatry 33 (5): 174–81.