Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by fear and avoidance of certain places or situations that cause panic or extreme helplessness or embarrassment. This fear may arise after a person has had a panic attack in a certain place or situation and anticipates having another panic attack if placed in the same situation again. Agoraphobia is essentially the fear of experiencing fear. People with the disorder often avoid crowded environments where they might feel trapped or being in open spaces where there’s no way to seek help. This fear can intensify to the point where a person feels unable to leave their home.
Agoraphobia is generally treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Talking with a counselor or professional can help an individual confront fears and manage anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can teach specific skills to help a person return to their usual activities and lifestyle without being inhibited by fear. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication may also help minimize symptoms and reduce anxiety. It is important to talk to a doctor to find both a short-term and long-term treatment plan to help manage the disorder most effectively.
A person with agoraphobia may fear crowds or public spaces and not be able to go out without a friend or companion – or perhaps not at all. Some people have a panic disorder in addition to agoraphobia. A panic disorder is another type of anxiety disorder in which a person experiences sudden attacks of extreme fear that cause an array of physical symptoms, such as rapid heart rate, trouble breathing, shakiness, dizziness or an intense fear of dying. Someone with panic disorder may develop agoraphobia after having a panic attack as a result of being in a particular place or situation. This can have a huge impact on an individual’s social life or ability to function and complete their daily routine and activities.
There are a number of resources available to provide information and support to people living with agoraphobia. There are also crisis centers and phone lines available if you or someone you know needs immediate help.