What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder which is characterised by the fear of having an anxiety attack in a setting from which you cannot escape.  The literal translation from the Greek words it is derived from means “fear of the marketplace”.  A person who is diagnosed with agoraphobia will avoid settings in which they fear they will have a panic attack in settings which they cannot escape.  In extreme cases the individual may have difficulty leaving home and being out in public or in unfamiliar places.

What are the symptoms of Agoraphobia?

Symptoms of Agoraphobia include becoming anxious in environments that are unfamiliar, panic attacks, fear of panic attacks, fear of panic attacks in environments the individual has no control over (such as in crowds, wide open spaces, public transport etc) and also fear of social embarrassment by having a panic attack while in the company of strangers.  About one third of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia.

What causes Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is about twice as common in women than it is in men.  Although it is unknown what causes agoraphobia, or why it is more common in woman theories include that social-cultural factors encourage or permit women greater avoidant coping strategies than they do men and also that women are more likely to seek a diagnosis and treatment than men.  Other factors that can lead to agoraphobia include having an anxious or overly critical parent, child abuse, being oversensitive to emotional and physical stimuli as well as hormone changes, a high need for control and approval and high amounts of sodium lactate in the bloodstream. 

How is Agoraphobia treated?

Agoraphobia can be successfully treated with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications in some cases, while in others it can be through therapy and a gradual exposure to the situations that the agoraphobia will avoid.  EMDR (eye movement desensitising and reprogramming), which is a form of processing therapy is also used to treat agoraphobia. 

What can I do about my Agoraphobia?

The best thing you can do is seek professional help and try to go to as many appointments as possible even if you do have trouble leaving the house.  If you are placed on medication take it as prescribed and consider learning relaxation techniques to help deal with your anxiety.  You could also try hypnotherapy, yoga, joining a support group, and employing stress management techniques in your daily life.

Author: Rebecca Millar

Rebecca is a freelance PR and Communications Specialist, Author, Science Writer, and Star Trek fan with a fondness for caffeine and all things geek. When she's not getting her comms specialist on, she's usually introverting Trekkie style, studying her Masters in Astronomy, or at her local fire brigade where she volunteers as a firefighter.

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