Most people fear having another panic attack and restrict their activities to avoid the possibility of another one. Agoraphobia is this cycle of anticipatory fear of panic and subsequent avoidance of situations where escape seems difficult, or help and safety are perceived to be unavailable such as being away from home or being alone.
What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
- Agoraphobia is characterized by marked fear or anxiety about two or more of the following five situations:
- Using public transportation such as automobiles, buses, trains, ships or airplanes.
- Being in open spaces like parking lots, marketplaces, bridges, open highways.
- Being in enclosed places, for example, stores, theaters, upper floors in buildings.
- Standing in line or being in a crowd.
- Being outside of the home alone.
- These situations are feared or avoided due to thoughts of having panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms such as passing out, incontinence or falling and that escape from these situations might be difficult or help might not be available.
- The agoraphobic situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety.
- The agoraphobic situations are actively avoided, require the presence of a companion, or are endured with intense fear or anxiety.
- The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the agoraphobic situations.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes significant distress or impairment in normal social, occupation, or other important areas of functioning.
There is no one single cause of Agoraphobia. However risk factors include negative childhood experiences like separation or death of a parent, being attacked or mugged, growing up in a lack of emotional warmth or overprotective parenting. Proneness to experiencing negative emotions (neuroticism) and sensitivity to anxiety, i.e. believing that anxiety symptoms are harmful can also contribute to the likelihood of developing agoraphobia. There is an increased risk (61%) for agoraphobia among offspring of parents with agoraphobic anxiety .
How can you treat agoraphobia?
Dr. Dufford and Anxiety Treatment Services provide integrative and comprehensive therapy for Agoraphobia including individual therapy, group support and behavioral fieldwork. Modalities include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy including guided imagery and real life desensitization/graduated exposure therapy, Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy, EMDR, Energy Psychology, and Meditation/Mindfulness.