WHAT IS AGORAPHOBIA?
Agoraphobia is a DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed.) diagnosis assigned to individuals who have a disproportionate fear of public places, often perceiving such environments as too open, crowded, or dangerous. An anxiety disorder, agoraphobia can manifest in symptoms of distress and panic, disrupting sufferers’ everyday lives. Agoraphobia can be caused by a variety of factors, such as associated health conditions, genetics, and your environmental stressors. More specifically, you are at higher risk for developing agoraphobia if you already suffer from panic disorder or have another phobia.
How you handle panic attacks and stress can have a direct correlation to you being at risk for developing agoraphobia. Do you have an anxious or nervous personality? While this does not guarantee you will become agoraphobic, it does put you at a higher risk. In addition, it is important to note the risks of being agoraphobic. Due to the limit on your life’s activities and socialization, agoraphobia can be linked to depression, substance abuse, and other associated mental health disorders. Accepting treatment will be a huge step but can ultimately change the trajectory of your life.
The most common treatment for agoraphobia is a combination of psychotherapy such as Exposure therapy and medication. I find that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is very helpful in reducing fears. The skills in which you teach a client will help them to learn how to tolerate their anxiety and challenge it in a way that gives them the power to return to the scenarios that once frightened them. The medications that are used in conjunction with psychotherapy are often either antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. You do not have to use medication alongside psychotherapy in the treatment of agoraphobia. This will depend on the severity of the case and the patient’s clinical symptoms and physical history.
Agoraphobia is a phobia, which means it is occurring in your mind. Like other phobias, this is something that can be worked with. While it may be challenging and come with assorted struggles, this phobia does not have to rule your life. With proper treatment and care, this is something you can overcome.
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