What Can You Do About Your Agoraphobia?

An individual who avoids situations that could cause him or her to experience intense fear may fit the diagnostic criteria for agoraphobia. This person is afraid of being trapped in a situation where he or she will feel helpless or embarrassed for having panicked.

Some people with agoraphobia rarely or never leave their homes, or they will only venture out when with a trusted friend or family member.

Agoraphobia is usually linked to a co-occurring panic disorder. When people make a connection between certain situations or events and the possibility of having a panic attack, they may avoid those situations and events. However, there are cases of agoraphobia without an accompanying panic diagnosis.

Not everyone with agoraphobia is completely home-bound. Some agoraphobics venture out to certain stores or coffee shops that feel safe to them. They may feel comfortable driving a few miles from home, but no farther. The time of day can also be a factor in whether they will leave home, or how far they feel safe going.

Risk Factors

Not surprisingly, people who have a tendency to be nervous are at higher risk for agoraphobia. Other risk factors are having a substance abuse problem or a history of physical or sexual abuse. Women are diagnosed more often than men.

Symptoms of Agoraphobia

  • Fear of being in crowded areas, of being alone, of being out of control in public places, of places
  • that might be hard to leave (such as an elevator)
  • Being housebound for long periods
  • Over-dependence on other people
  • Feelings of helplessness or that one's body are not real

Treatments for Agoraphobia

  • SSRI antidepressant medications, such as Paxil, Prozac, or Sarafem, or other types of antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety, such as Xanax or Klonopin
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people become aware of what triggers their panic symptoms and how to cope with those symptoms. CBT may also include desensitization outings, where the therapist accompanies the client to places or events that are usually avoided. This allows clients to diminish their fears by facing them while having support.
  • Some people report anxiety relief by taking calming OTC herbal or dietary supplements, such as kava or ashwagandha. However, even supplements present safety concerns and should only be used after consulting with your doctor.

If you have agoraphobia and are home-bound, there is still help available. You will be able to find therapists who will start treatment in your home or talk to you by email, chat, phone, or Skype. You can also ask a friend to go with you on your first few visits to a therapy office.

Meanwhile, take care of yourself by finding support websites or support groups near your home. Learn and practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, qi gong, or yoga. Attempt going to places that are uncomfortable for you instead of avoiding them. Start by taking short trips to nearby stores or friend’s homes. The more often you do this, the less anxious you will feel.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo: Max Pixel

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