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Phobic Anxiety Disorder


Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder which primarily consists of the fear of experiencing a difficult or embarrassing situation from which the sufferer cannot escape. Typical "phobic situations" might include driving, shopping, crowded places, traveling, standing in line, being alone, meetings and social gatherings. This fear causes the person to withdraw into safer surroundings, and many agoraphobics will only frequent a few secure locations, such as their home, a specific route to work, or sometimes the homes of friends or relatives. In fact, agoraphobia is a condition which develops when a person begins to avoid spaces or situations associated with anxiety. Agoraphobia may occur with or without panic disorder, but it is most frequently seen with panic disorder. Panic disorder progresses to agoraphobia for about one-third of the people with panic disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Agoraphobics are often extremely sensitized to their own bodily sensations, subconsciously over-reacting to perfectly normal events. For example, the exertion involved in climbing a flight of stairs may trigger a full-blown panic attack, because it increases the heartbeat and breathing rate, which the agoraphobic interprets as the start of a panic attack instead of a normal fluctuation. Once the panic attacks have started, these episodes become the ongoing stress, even when other more obvious pressures have diminished. This sets up a "feedback condition" which generally leads to increased numbers of panic attacks and, for some people, an increase in the situations or events which can produce panicky feelings. Many people remain in a painful state of anxious anticipation because of these fears. Some become restricted or "housebound" while others function "normally" but with great difficulty, often attempting to hide their discomfort.

Causes of Agoraphobia

The common Causes of Agoraphobia :

  • Agoraphobia is a disorder that most often accompanies other anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or specific phobias.
  • If it occurs with panic disorder, the onset is usually in the 20s, and women are affected more often than men.
  • Children may learn phobias by observing a family member's phobic reaction to an object or a situation
  • Much is still unknown about what causes phobias.

Symptoms of Agoraphobia

Some common Symptoms of Agoraphobia :

  • Fear of being in places where escape might be difficult.
  • Numbness and tingling.
  • Becoming house bound for prolonged periods.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.
  • Chest pain.
  • Dependence upon others.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Anxiety or panic attack ( acute severe anxiety).
  • Unusual temper or agitation with trembling or twitching.

Treatment of Agoraphobia

  • The goal of treatment is to help the phobic person function effectively.
  • Antianxiety and antidepressive medications are often used to help relieve the symptoms associated with phobias.
  • Visual imagery (practicing facing a situation that causes anxiety by picturing it in your mind) .
  • Many believe that a combination of medication and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy represents the best treatment of Panic Disorder.
  • Support groups.
  • Behavior modification (learning to change your response to situations that cause anxiety) .
  • Agoraphobia, especially when it's accompanied by a panic disorder, is usually treated with SSRIs and behavior therapy.