Agoraphobia is an intense fear and anxiety of being in places where it is hard to escape, or where help might not be available. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.
Commonly Associated With
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. The exact cause of agoraphobia is unknown. Agoraphobia sometimes occurs when a person has had a panic attack and begins to fear situations that might lead to another panic attack.
With agoraphobia, you avoid places or situations because you do not feel safe in public places. The fear is worse when the place is crowded.
Symptoms of agoraphobia include:
Being afraid of spending time alone
Being afraid of places where escape might be hard
Being afraid of losing control in a public place
Depending on others
Feeling detached or separated from others
Feeling that the body is not real
Feeling that the environment is not real
Having an unusual temper or agitation
Staying in the house for long periods
Physical symptoms can include:
Chest pain or discomfort
Dizziness or fainting
Nausea or other stomach distress
Short of breath
Exams & Tests
The health care provider will look at your history of agoraphobia and will get a description of the behavior from you, your family, or friends.
The goal of treatment is to help you feel and function better. The success of treatment usually depends in part on how severe the agoraphobia is. Treatment most often combines talk therapy with medicine. Certain medicines usually used to treat depression may be helpful for this disorder. They work by preventing your symptoms or making them less severe. You must take these medicines every day. DO NOT stop taking them or change the dosage without talking with your provider.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most often the first choice of antidepressant.
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another choice.
Other medicines used to treat depression or medicines used to treat seizures may also be tried.
Medicines called sedatives or hypnotics may also be prescribed.
These medicines should only be taken under a doctor’s direction.
Your doctor will prescribe a limited amount of these drugs. They should not be used every day.
They may be used when symptoms become very severe or when you are about to be exposed to something that always brings on your symptoms.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy. It involves 10 to 20 visits with a mental health professional over several weeks. CBT helps you change the thoughts that cause your condition.
It may involve:
Understanding and controlling distorted feelings or views of stressful events or situations
Learning stress management and relaxation techniques
Relaxing, then imagining the things that cause the anxiety, working from the least fearful to the most fearful (called systematic desensitization and exposure therapy)
You may also be slowly exposed to the real-life situation that causes the fear to help you overcome it.
A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, getting enough rest, and good nutrition can also be helpful.
Call for an appointment with your provider if you have symptoms of agoraphobia.
Courtesy of MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine