There are many different anxiety disorders and agoraphobia is one of them. Many people think that it is easy to get over these kinds of conditions but there has to be an understanding of the condition as well as a determination to manage it in order to be able to do so. Treatment options vary depending on the preference of the individual as well as the recommendation of the physician who is treating the patient.
What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is well known as a fear that is triggered when a person is in a crowd. This belief may be because of the literal translation of the word which is a fear of an assembled group or marketplace from Latin agora meaning “market” and phobia meaning “fear of”. The fact of the matter is that being all alone in a crowd is just one aspect of the phobia. This kind of phobia is actually about being afraid that there is nobody familiar around to help when help is needed and not being able to escape or avoid something.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
The symptoms of agoraphobia include, but are not limited to:
- Fear of being alone in a crowd or in a crowded place
- Fear being on his own
- Fear of wide, open spaces
- Fear of death
- Fear of an anxiety attack or panic attack
- Being overly dependent on other people
- Being housebound for extended periods of time
- Unwillingness to mingle with others
The individual may also experience the full range of symptoms that come with a panic attack when the phobia is triggered. These actual, physical manifestations of a triggered agoraphobia attack may include all or some of the following:
- Tightness in the chest
- Chest pains
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Clammy hands
- Sweating profusely
- The chills
Causes of Agoraphobia
This kind of anxiety disorder actually occurs when the individual feels that he has no way out of a crowded place or that relief or help is not readily available. When a person who has agoraphobia is left all alone in a remote area, the anxiety can occur because the individual may feel that there is nobody around who can help if anything were to happen. A person who suffers from this condition may hesitate to leave his home without the company of someone familiar because of the fear of having no one to help when help is needed. This kind of anxiety may also develop when an individual may have had a traumatic experience or a panic attack and he is now afraid that it could happen again when exposed to a similar situation. This would prompt him to shun the company of society in general and avoid crowds. In spite of the fear of being in a crowd, he might also have a fear of being on his own, with no one to support him.
Although agoraphobia is a mental disorder, researchers are leaning towards genetics as one of the reasons why this condition occurs in some people and not in others. Some lineages show a recurrence of anxiety disorders through the generations. Of course, exposure to a traumatic event can also lead to an individual developing this particular phobia. Some researchers also theorize that the condition of the area of the brain that controls one’s response to fear might also have an impact on anxiety.
Therapy plays a huge role in treating individuals who suffer from agoraphobia. Many experts agree that this condition can be easier to treat if diagnosed earlier. Full blown cases may take years to treat compared to situations where the patient is not so fearful. A qualified and experienced therapist should be able to guide the person suffering from this condition to try to overcome his situation little by little. The consultation may take several sessions but the therapist should be able to encourage the individual to learn how to manage his fears and anxieties. Treatment can be achieved through cognitive behavioral therapy which shows the patient that his fears are unlikely to come true, teaches the patient how to deal with an anxiety attack and helping the patient recognize potential thoughts that will lead to a trigger replacing these thoughts with a calmer and more positive outlook. CBT will also teach the patient how to handle stress and how to assess situations and avoid potentially panic inducing ones.
Medication is another option in treating agoraphobia. There are just two common types of medications that a doctor might give to a person who is suffering from this form of anxiety. Antidepressants come in the form of Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which have the capacity to make a person feel more relaxed and better about himself. Basically, these SSRIs function to prevent an anxiety attack from happening. The other type pf medication commonly prescribed is an anti-anxiety drug called benzodiazepines. This drug functions by calming triggered symptoms of an anxiety attack. Basically, the second drug is more of a short term relief when the symptoms of agoraphobia start acting up. They can be habit forming which is why it is important to be able to manage the condition as soon as possible and not rely on relief brought about by this medication.
Through all of these, many therapists who treat those who suffer from agoraphobia like to highlight the importance of support from family when it comes to treatment. Patients with families should be supported and helped through the difficult process of treatment in order for them to find inspiration and determination to get through it. The patients should also be determined to learn techniques that will help them relax and be calm. They should also help themselves by avoiding alcohol and drugs that can lower their inhibitions and set off potentially dangerous situations. Most illegal drugs can affect one’s perception of reality and aggravate the situation. Their physical health should be in tiptop shape because treatment can be grueling and taxing to the body.
It is important to help individuals who suffer from agoraphobia because they usually withdraw from society if they are left on their own and become depressed and possibly even suicidal. By showing them that their friends and family care enough to treat their condition, they will feel better and may be determined to get better.