Posted August 25, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read
Agoraphobia is a rare type of anxiety disorder. If you have it, your fears keep you from getting out into the world. You avoid certain places and situations because you think you’ll feel trapped and not be able to get help.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes agoraphobia. They think it runs in families. You may get it if you have a lot of panic attacks. That’s when you have bursts of fear that come out of the blue and last for a few minutes. These happen when there’s no real danger.
Less than 1% of people in the U.S. have agoraphobia. Women are two to three times more likely to have it than men, and it’s more common in teenagers and young adults.
A few other things that can raise your chances of it include having:
Panic disorder, especially if it’s not treated
A family member who has agoraphobia
A history of very stressful or traumatic events
Fast, pounding heart
Sweating, trembling, shaking
Feeling hot or cold
Nausea or diarrhea
Dizziness or feeling faint
You may feel like:
You might not survive a panic attack.
You’re not in control.
You’ll look bad in front of others or that they’ll stare at you.
You need to be with someone you trust when you go anywhere.
A lot of the symptoms caused by agoraphobia are the same as those of other medical conditions like heart disease, stomach issues, and breathing problems. So you may make several trips to the doctor or emergency room before you and your doctor figure out what’s really going on.
Your doctor may ask:
Do you find it scary or stressful to leave your house?
Do you have to avoid some places or situations?
What happens if you end up in one of them?
They’ll do a physical exam and maybe some tests to rule out any other medical problems. If they don’t find a physical reason for your symptoms, they’ll probably recommend that you see a psychiatrist or therapist.
Your doctor will usually treat agoraphobia with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Therapy - Cognitive therapy can teach you new ways to think about or face situations that cause panic and help you be less afraid. You may also learn relaxation and breathing exercises. Sometimes your therapist may suggest exposure therapy, in which you gradually start to do some of the things that make you anxious.
Medicine - There are many drugs that your doctor might suggest for agoraphobia, but the most common are antidepressants. Doctors often start with a low dose of one of these medicines that raises the level of a
feel-goodchemical in your brain called serotonin.
You’ll probably take medicine for at least 6 months to a year. If you feel better and no longer are stressed when you’re in places that used to scare you, your doctor may begin tapering off your medicine.
For short-term relief, your doctor may recommend anti-anxiety medications, called benzodiazepines, in addition to antidepressants. These are sedatives that can help with your symptoms. You can start to depend on them, so you shouldn’t take them for long. And be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve had any issues with alcohol or drug abuse.
Alternative therapies - Applied relaxation is a series of exercises that help you notice when you start to feel tense and learn how to relax your muscles and ease that tension. It typically takes an hour-long session each week for 12 to 15 weeks.
Other alternative therapies that may help include breathing exercises and meditation.
Lifestyle changes - It can help to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. Skip caffeine and alcohol. They can make your symptoms worse.