Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. The term agoraphobia comes from the Greek word that means ‘gathering place’. This anxiety disorder prevents one from visiting a crowded place. The sufferer may find such places as dangerous and uncomfortable. The person will go to great lengths to avoid social situations that include visiting public places. Such people may never leave their homes to avoid panic attacks.
What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a complex phobia or fear that results due to many interlinked underlying conditions. People with agoraphobia may suffer from other phobias as well. These include claustrophobia (feeling trapped) or monophobia (fear of being left alone). These people avoid travelling out of their houses. If they do venture out, they will do so only if they have a trusted friend or family member around. This makes them dependent on their trusted aide to travel.
There are different levels of severity. Some may never leave their house. A few may hide themselves in their room and some may define boundaries according to their comfort zone.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia symptoms occur when a person visits a commonly feared place like shopping malls, elevators, public transportation, airplane, crowded places like fairs, stands in a line, etc.
These symptoms include physical, psychological as well as behavioral.
Physical Symptoms include:
- Short, shallow and rapid breathing
- Sweating profusely
- Problems swallowing
- Fainting spells
- Ringing in ears
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Avoiding places or situations that the person feels will trigger another anxiety attack.
- Require reassurance from a trusted person before going out. Such people will insist a friend or sibling to accompany them for a simple shopping trip too.
- Some may carry out acts or have something in order to get confidence to face a particular situation or social place. Such people may have some tablets that keep their pressure under control or drink a glass of alcohol to gain strength before facing their fears.
- Escape is the best route for them to avoid an anxiety attack. People with agoraphobia will find a way to avoid the place or situation and go back to the safety of their home.
Psychological symptoms include:
- Low self confidence
- Loss of control
- Fear of being left alone
- General anxiety at all ties
- Fear that the people will notice their anxiety and suffer humiliation
- Fear about going crazy
Causes of Agoraphobia
The exact cause of agoraphobia is not very clear.experts believe it results due to a series of physical and psychological factors.
These causes include:
- Chronic use of sleeping pills and tranquilizers
- Long-term effect of alcohol abuse
- Complication of panic disorder where a person feels extreme fear for no apparent reason. People who suffer from panic attacks, may try to avoid the same environment or place in the future. Thus, developing agoraphobia in the long run.
- People with problems with spatial orientation, that is, those who have a poor sense of balance and space awareness. People with agoraphobia rely more on their tactile and visual signals. Thus, suffer from overwhelming visual signals and become disoriented in their surroundings.
Complications of Agoraphobia
When agoraphobia is left untreated, it may result in certain complications.
- The person starts avoiding taking part in any activity outside of their house. This includes going to school, socializing, taking part in hobbies, exercises, etc.
- Career starts to suffer as the person avoids workplace. Thus, leading to isolation, financial hardships, boredom, loneliness, etc. This allows depression to creep in furthering complications.
- The person starts feeling out of control, angry and frustrated. This lowers their self-esteem as well as self-confidence.
- In order to overcome their fear, these people start using drugs,drink alcohol or turn chain smokers.
Diagnosis of Agoraphobia
Diagnosis is based on the symptoms explained by the patient. In order to be diagnosed with agoraphobia, one needs to meet the standards put forth by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
The criteria according to DSM include:
- Patients suffering from anxiety in places or situations such that it is difficult to get out or find it difficult to get help in case of a panic attack.
- Avoiding visiting places or situations where one fears to develop a panic attack or undergoing anxiety or distress if put in those situations.
Treatment for Agoraphobia
Treatment for agoraphobia includes medication as well as psychotherapy. Medications include antidepressants as well as anti-anxiety medications. Psychotherapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy. The patient is councelled as well as given alternatives to overcome their fear and anxiety.
Agoraphobia can make the patient feel isolated and alone. It is very important to understand and spot the symptoms soon. If you find a near ad dear one becoming a recluse and avoiding certain situations, help them find help.
Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: December 10, 2014