- Agoraphobia is the fear of being in large, small, or crowded spaces, using public transportation, or leaving the house alone.
- This fear can become so severe that the individual isolates him or herself in her home and is forced to rely on others for food and other necessities.
- Symptoms of agoraphobia include: rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, chest pain, breathing issues, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, and even a fear of dying.
- Sometimes, another disorder is to blame for your anxious symptoms, such as separation anxiety, social anxiety, or major depression.
- The good news is that agoraphobia is treatable: both psychotherapy and medication have proven to help those who suffer with it.
Agoraphobia is essentially the fear of being—or even just feeling—trapped. With this disorder, the following might spark this intense fear or anxiety: Using public transportation, being in large open spaces, being in closed-in spaces, getting stuck in crowds or in line, and leaving the house alone.
Those who suffer with extreme agoraphobia might refuse to leave the confines of their home. Their fear and anxiety prove too strong for them to conquer, forcing them to rely on others for basic necessities like food and household supplies. Additionally, severe cases can cause one to develop other harmful disorders such as depression.
What Are the Symptoms of Agoraphobia?
As mentioned above, the primary characteristic of agoraphobia is the strong fear of those items listed. That said, the following symptoms are also often observed in those with this disorder:
- Quickened heartbeat
- Shaking or trembling
- Chest pain
- Breathing issues
- Dizziness or nausea
- Difficulty swallowing
- Fear of dying
These symptoms are characteristic of other conditions too, like heart disease. However, if you find that you’re experiencing these symptoms when you’re in big public spaces, tiny spaces, crowded spaces, on public transportation, or leaving the house by yourself.
Who Is at Risk of Developing Agoraphobia?
The tricky thing is that sometimes your fears can be better explained by another disorder. The following are common conditions that can either accompany agoraphobia or might be to blame for your symptoms:
- Situational Specific Phobia: This should be diagnosed if the fear and avoidance is allocated to just one the agoraphobic situations previously discussed. Furthermore, if an individual fears a situation for reasons unrelated to panic-like symptoms, a specific phobia may fit the bill.
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: The difference here is that the thoughts are about detachment from significant others or one’s home, rather than a focus on panic-like symptoms.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: This disorder focuses on the fear of interacting with others and being negatively judged or perceived.
- Panic Disorder: Agoraphobia is not to be diagnosed if the individual’s fears and avoidances do not extend past one agoraphobic situation.
- Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: This can be determined based on whether the fear and avoidance is not only related to and triggered by situations that spark traumatic memories in an individual.
- Major Depressive Disorder: This disorder may cause an individual to avoid leaving home because of feelings of apathy, low self-esteem, and loss of energy; avoidance is unrelated to fears of panic-like attacks.
Is Agoraphobia Treatable?
Fortunately, agoraphobia is a treatable condition. The symptoms of this condition can be relieved through psychotherapy or medication or a combination of the two. Psychotherapy helps the patient set goals and learn skills to reduce anxiety symptoms, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) being the most effective form.
These therapists, like Jasmin Carmona from Thriveworks Raleigh, focus on how to determine what triggers panic-like symptoms, on directly confronting and challenging one’s worries, and changing unwanted behaviors through desensitization. Certain forms of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can also prove effective, as they are designed to relieve one’s anxiety.