What is Agoraphobia?
At the core of agoraphobia is a fear of losing control of some situation, which does not necessarily translate into a fear of going outside, as some believe it to be. While some with agoraphobia may avoid going outside, it can manifest in many different ways. Some one with agoraphobia is so triggered by certain settings or scenarios that it affects their ability to go about their daily lives.
Media portrayals of this disorder typically show a shut-in unable to leave the house. Many agoraphobes leave the home, but are triggered in other ways, such as riding a subway or going into a crowded space.
With any mental health disorder, it is always best to inform oneself and avoid resorting to stereotypes. These myths about something like agoraphobia can stigmatize patients and also prevent them from seeking counseling for their disorder.
Triggers of agoraphobia vary greatly from one person to the next. No one should make a value judgment about their situation, either, by comparing their symptoms to someone else’s. If you have symptoms of agoraphobia that interfere with your life, you should seek out compassionate diagnosis and care.
Fears in Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia can involve one or more fears or phobias. Just some of the phobias an agoraphobe may experience can include but are not limited to:
- Fearing travel on public transportation
- Fearing being in lines or crowds
- Fearing open spaces
- Fearing cramped or crowded spaces, such as an elevator
- Fearing going outside alone
As stated above, every patient is different. This is a short list and by no means a complete list of every phobia associated with this disorder.
Spotting Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Diagnosis of agoraphobia requires a mental health professional. Learning about the symptoms of the disorder, however, can help those who are seeking out help or have concerns about whether or not they may have agoraphobia. When in a triggering situation, someone with agoraphobia may experience:
- Difficulty catching their breath
- Excessive perspiration
- Excessive feelings of impending doom or death
- Increased heart rate
- Flushing in the face
- Shivering and trembling
- Nausea and digestion issues
The emotional symptoms are less obvious and harder to spot. They can include:
- Avoiding settings that trigger the individual
- Relying on others for simple tasks
- Exhibiting apathy and detachment
- Often feeling that things are hopeless
Agoraphobia – Getting Treatment
Your mental health professional may recommend one or more interventions to treat your agoraphobia. These can include some medication and some form of therapy.
One form of therapy that is particularly effective with agoraphobia is exposure therapy. In this approach, the patient and therapist develop a system for slowly but surely exposing the patient to triggers. Working in session, the patient and therapist then help the patient explore their experience with this exposure, allowing the patient to understand that nothing bad has actually happened as a result of confronting the trigger.
Prescribing medication can also be helpful for the patient during therapy. Anxiety levels can rise during therapy, and medications can help stabilize patients so that they can succeed in their endeavors.