In this brief guide, we will talk about Agoraphobia and its treatment.
Agoraphobia treatment: Are antidepressants more effective than anti-anxiety medications?
Antidepressants are more effective than anti-anxiety medications in the treatment of agoraphobia. Certain antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac), are used for the treatment of panic disorder with agoraphobia.
What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. It is a type of phobia. Agoraphobia has symptoms of anxiety in situations where people perceive their environment as unsafe hard to escape.
When people with agoraphobia are in open spaces, shopping malls, or just out, they might get a panic attack. These people avoid going out and unusually public places because they feel unsafe there. To go out to a public place, people who have agoraphobia feel that they need a companion: a friend or a relative.
The symptoms of agoraphobia
The symptoms of agoraphobia are classified into the following types:
- Physical symptoms,
- Behavioural symptoms,
- Cognitive symptoms.
Physical symptoms of agoraphobia
Physical symptoms can appear if a person who has agoraphobia appears in a situation that causes anxiety. However, in general, physical symptoms do not appear because, as we mentioned above, people with agoraphobia avoid situations and places that make them feel unsafe and anxious.
Physical symptoms of agoraphobia are:
- Rapid heartbeat,
- Chest pain,
Behavioural symptoms of agoraphobia
Behavioural symptoms of agoraphobia assume symptoms connected to behaviour.
These are the following behavioural symptoms:
- Avoiding open places or public places which can cause a panic attack,
- Avoiding being far from home,
- Being unable to leave the house,
- Needing the company of a close person to go out of the house.
Cognitive symptoms of agoraphobia
Cognitive symptoms of agoraphobia assume specific thoughts and feelings. More often, you feel fear related to the situation or environment that causes a panic attack.
Here are some symptoms that are connected to fear of possible panic attack:
- If you get a panic attack, you will look stupid in front of others,
- You might lose control in public,
- All will look at you; you will be in the centre of attention,
- Because of the panic attack, your heart may stop beating, or you cannot breathe.
People also fear that they cannot live without others’ help and support, or being left home alone, they have a familiar feeling of anxiety as well.
Agoraphobia: The causes
The causes of agoraphobia can be:
- Psychological factors – a traumatic childhood experience, being in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship,
- Health conditions – having an existing anxiety disorder (panic disorder, social anxiety disorder), history of mental illnesses,
- The environment – living or working in an environment that causes stress and anxiety,
- A drug addiction,
- Struggling with alcohol addiction.
Agoraphobia, in general, begins from 20 years of age on average.
According to research, people who have difficulties in spatial awareness have a higher chance to get agoraphobia. It is also more common among women than among men.
The most efficient agoraphobia treatment is a combination of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication.
Agoraphobia treatment: Psychotherapy
Agoraphobia treatment with psychotherapy assumes meeting with a psychotherapist. You can tell him or her about your condition, your fears. The therapist often prescribes medications to see positive changes sooner. Agoraphobia treatment by psychotherapy is a short-term treatment. It allows you to learn some skills to reduce the symptoms of agoraphobia.
If you are unable to leave your house because of agoraphobia but at the same time you want to get a treatment by a psychotherapist, you do not have to worry about it; there are therapists who know about agoraphobia very well, and they may suggest to visit your home for the session or to meet you in a place that you consider safe. Is also possible to have some sessions through mail or over the phone.
It is allowed to invite a trusted person to your sessions so that you feel safer and more comfortable.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is also useful in agoraphobia treatment. It helps a person to understand the feelings connected to agoraphobia. It can also help you to overcome stressful situations by changing your irrational thoughts with rational, healthy thoughts.
It usually takes 12-20 weeks to treat agoraphobia with cognitive-behavioural therapy, when it is combined with medication. Without medication, the treatment may take a year to be effective.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a non-traditional type of psychotherapy. It is used to treat panic attacks, anxiety, addictions. EMDR is sufficient, according to patients. They mentioned that when they move their eyes back and forth, it lessens negative emotions. EMDR is safe and does not have any side effects.
Agoraphobia treatment: Medications
There are some medications for agoraphobia treatment that are used to relieve the symptoms of agoraphobia and panic attacks.
Medications used for agoraphobia treatment are:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: paroxetine (Paxil) or fluoxetine (Prozac),
- Tricyclic antidepressants: amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors: venlafaxine (Effexor) or duloxetine (Cymbalta).
- Alprazolam (Xanax),
- Clonazepam (Klonopin).
Benzodiazepines are usually used for the short term. It is important to remember that they can make you addicted, so you should avoid them if you have anxiety problems for a long time, also if you have drug/alcohol abuse.
Agoraphobia treatment with medications can take some weeks to relieve the symptoms because your doctor may change the medication to find the more efficient one for you.
Placebo, desensitization is used for agoraphobia treatment too.
Lifestyle changes for agoraphobia treatment
Lifestyle changes are also crucial for agoraphobia treatment. They assume the following changes:
- Exercise regularly,
- Eat healthy food,
- Get enough sleep.
Recommended books and sources
- Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks
- HFNE “Acupuncture for anxiety.”
- HFNE “Social Anxiety”
- Simple, Effective Treatment of Agoraphobia
- The Agoraphobia Workbook: A Comprehensive Program to End Your Fear of Symptom Attacks
FAQs about agoraphobia treatment
Can a person with agoraphobia be cured?
A person with agoraphobia can be cured. Agoraphobia can be treated by talk therapy, CBT, EMDR, and medications. To relieve the symptoms of agoraphobia, you should use the combination of the mentioned treatments.
What triggers agoraphobia?
Panic attacks trigger agoraphobia. There are other triggers too, such as traumatic childhood experience, having an anxiety disorder or other mental illnesses, living or working in a stressful environment, and drug/alcohol addictions.
Is agoraphobia a disability?
Agoraphobia can be considered a disability even though it is not qualified as such. We can call it a disability because agoraphobia limits a person’s activities, movements, and senses.
How does agoraphobia affect a person’s life?
Agoraphobia affects a person’s life negatively. It makes him/her isolated from society, limits activities, impedes the establishment of new acquaintances, assumes anxiety, panic attacks, diarrhoea pr dysphagia.
What is the opposite of agoraphobia?
The opposite of agoraphobia is claustrophobia. Claustrophobia is an irrational or abnormal fear of being in a closed space. Phobia means “fear,” and claustro means “bolt.”
What is it called when you are afraid to leave your house?
When you are afraid to leave your house, it is called agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. It has symptoms of anxiety in situations where people perceive their environment as unsafe hard to escape.
In this brief guide, we talked about agoraphobia, its symptoms, causes. If you struggle with agoraphobia, you should not worry much because the combination can treat it of psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, EMDR, and medications prescribed by a professional doctor.
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- Mayo Clinic Staff. Agoraphobia
- What is EMDR?