Do you have consistent anxiety when you are in public places? Do you avoid crowded places like malls, concerts, or movie theaters? Do you prefer staying at home because you’re afraid to commute in public? You might have agoraphobia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1.3% of adults experience agoraphobia at a certain point in their life. If you have agoraphobia, you should read this. Do not let this fear interfere with your work performance, relationships, and living the best of your life. Life is short, and we should not allow fear to hinder us from enjoying it.
What Is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that roots from the fear of exposing oneself to places or situations where one feels trapped, helpless, embarrassed, or scared. The intense fear is caused by the anticipation that they cannot escape a place or situation when something goes wrong. That is why they just avoid these situations, to avoid developing panic attacks.
People with agoraphobia stay away from new places and avoid situations they are unfamiliar with. This includes open spaces, enclosed spaces, big crowds, public transportation, places outside their home, and social gatherings. When agoraphobia becomes severe and extreme fear kicks in, they prefer to be home alone. This may affect their job, relationships and may cause a sedentary lifestyle.
Are Agoraphobia, Claustrophobia, and Enochlophobia the Same?
Agoraphobia, Claustrophobia, and Enochlophobia are closely related to each other. Encholophobia is the fear of crowds and is closely perceived as the fear of large gatherings of people. In comparison, agoraphobia is a more broad term, which includes fear even without the huge crowd.
Claustrophobia, on the other hand, is the fear of enclosed spaces. This includes fear of airplanes, elevators, and other enclosed rooms. In agoraphobia, a person has fears of both open and enclosed areas.
What Triggers Agoraphobia?
The causes of agoraphobia are not established, although there are many risk factors and pre-existing conditions that can trigger agoraphobia. People with agoraphobia have certain triggers. The risk factors that causes agoraphobia or that can trigger the development of agoraphobia are:
- Existing panic disorder or anxiety disorder
- Existence of other phobias
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Presence of other underlying disorders (e.g., depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Unhealthy response and apprehension to fear and panic attacks
- Exposure to a family or close friend who has agoraphobia
- A stressful life event (e.g., death of a loved one)
- Traumatic experience (e.g., involvement in a public transportation accident)
How Do You Know if You Have Agoraphobia?
It is unfortunate that when a person has agoraphobia, it affects each aspect of their life. Since it’s an anxiety disorder it makes you uncertain why you can’t seem to function the way you used to. It is an exhausting condition that stops us from doing what we love.
People with agoraphobia start to feel scared of having a panic attack in public situations. The only thing that makes sense to them is to stay away from the perceived danger. Persons diagnosed with agoraphobia often experience panic attacks even without leaving home.
So how do you know if you have agoraphobia? Take a deep breath, consult a mental professional or doctor, and answer the questions asked, honestly. This can help with the diagnosis and prompt treatment of agoraphobia:
- Do you have consistent feelings of anxiety when you’re in a crowded place, public transportation, open or enclosed spaces?
- Do you have a panic disorder? Does this panic disorder recur?
- Do you feel anxious when you spend time alone outside of your home?
- Do you avoid elevators, movie theaters, crowded trains, or concerts?
- Are you afraid of embarrassing yourself in public?
- Does your fear or anxiety affect your personal and professional life?
- Do you prefer to have a companion when you leave the house?
- Have you experienced a panic attack? If yes, was the panic attack caused by a certain place or incident? Do you have physical symptoms of a panic attack?
- Have you canceled social gatherings with friends, colleagues, and family because you feel anxious being in a public place?
- Are you afraid of losing control in a public place?
- Have you experienced hyperventilation in a public place caused by fear and anxiety?
- Are your thoughts preoccupied with worry even before you step out of your house?
- Are you uncomfortable in confined spaces like elevators, airplanes, or dressing rooms?
If you answer YES to most of these questions, you should really consider consulting with a mental health professional to confirm the presence of agoraphobia. If you develop agoraphobia, do not be afraid. Do not let agoraphobia interfere with your everyday life and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Can Agoraphobia Be Managed?
Yes, agoraphobia can be managed. A combination of therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes can help with the management of agoraphobia. Anti-anxiety medications, as prescribed by your doctor, can relieve the signs of a panic attack and agoraphobia. As for therapy, you will most likely need Exposure Therapy, Psychotherapy, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
You will probably be advised of lifestyle changes that can gradually reduce your anxiety. These may include:
- Regular exercise: For the production of happy hormones so you’ll feel happier and relaxed. This can help with your physical and mental health.
- Healthy diet: A diet that consists of vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can make you feel better. You may also eat foods that help reduce anxiety, like dark chocolates and nuts.
- Meditation and deep breathing exercises: Praying, meditating, and practicing breathing exercises can help fight panic attacks.
With the combination of medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes, you can manage agoraphobia. In no time, you will slowly find yourself facing your fears and living a more productive life.
Can Therapy Help With My Agoraphobia?
Yes, therapy can help with the management of agoraphobia. You may not be aware of this, but the best way to overcome any fear is through gradual exposure to fear. By gently and slowly exposing yourself to places and situations that you fear, agoraphobia may diminish over time.
Agoraphobia may really affect your quality of life.The most common type of Psychotherapy used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This involves talking about your fears to a professional mental health worker.
When diagnosed with agoraphobia, during the treatment course, your therapist will help you understand what causes your agoraphobia and how you can work on them. When you talk openly about your fears, your negative thoughts will be replaced with an optimistic mindset, allowing you to control your worries.
If you’re anxious about stepping out of your house and visit a therapist or doctor, you can always opt for telehealth online counseling. From the comfort of your home, you can talk to a professional therapist from Kentucky Counseling Center.