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Held Hostage By Fear: Understanding Agoraphobia And What To Do If You Think You Have It

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Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but for those suffering from agoraphobia, it can become crippling. If you find yourself having anxiety attacks when you must go out in public places, you may be suffering from this distressing disorder.

Symptoms of agoraphobia

One of the most common symptoms of agoraphobia is fear of leaving your house. You may also fear being in places where you cannot escape easily, such as when in an elevator or when traveling by train or plane. Some sufferers are fearful of being alone. You may fear being in crowds or being in open spaces.

You may feel as if you are losing control when you must go anywhere outside your home. Sometimes the mere thought of needing to go out will trigger a panic attack. These attacks are accompanied by classic anxiety symptoms, such as racing heart, sweating, feeling faint, feeling like you can't take a deep breath, fear of dying, shaking, visual disturbances, upset stomach, and feeling like you are losing control.

What causes agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia may be triggered by emotional life events like the death of a loved one, illness, divorce, abuse, or other stressful issues. It sometimes tends to run in families. It is also more common if you tend to have a nervous and anxious personality.

It is not uncommon for agoraphobia to develop following a person's first panic attack. These frightening attacks often occur suddenly and for no apparent reason. If you are out in a public environment when this happens, you may associate the specific place you're at as a trigger point for additional panic attacks and avoid returning to that place.

What are the risks of agoraphobia?

Left untreated, agoraphobia can have a detrimental effect on your ability to work and have a social life. It can affect your relationships with others. It can lead to depression from social isolation. Some people begin abusing alcohol or drugs to cope with the condition. Being fearful of leaving the house may prevent you from seeking help. This may lead to you becoming housebound for extensive periods of time.

What is the treatment for agoraphobia?

If you are afraid to leave home, begin by telling a friend or family member about your fear and enlist them to accompany you to an appointment with a psychiatrist or counselor. If you don't have anyone to confide in, you may be able to find a psychiatrist or counselor who does online sessions or who will provide counseling over the phone.

Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are often useful in helping you overcome your fear and anxiety. This may take time and is usually not a quick solution. Overcoming fear is a process. You will learn helpful ways to cope with your anxiety.

Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications may be helpful in some instances. Your healthcare professional will determine if these medications may be necessary for you.

As alarming as the symptoms of agoraphobia can be, with the guidance of a good psychiatrist or counselor, you can overcome your fear and anxiety. It will require time and patience, but eventually you will learn helpful techniques for coping with and defeating agoraphobia. Contact a clinic like Commonweath Affiliates PC to learn more.