What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is characterized by fear of situations where escape might be difficult or help may not be available if panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating, embarrassing symptoms take place. Since it so often relates to fear of the feelings of anxiety themselves, it commonly goes along with Panic Disorder. Agoraphobia typically leads to a very restricted life where the person rarely (or sometimes never) leaves the home. Commonly feared situations include using public transportation, plane rides, road trips, being in open spaces such as parking lots, marketplaces, and bridges, enclosed spaces such as movie theaters, restaurant booths, and crowds, and being outside of one’s home alone. Basically, agoraphobia comes up wherever a person could feel trapped. Individuals with agoraphobia almost always avoid these feared situations, require the presence of a trusted companion when approaching them, or they endure them with intense fear.
- Fear of being trapped or stuck in a situation where panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating, embarrassing symptoms may take place
- Avoidance of many of the following situations or places:
- Heavy traffic
- Physical Exercise
- Large crowds
- Middle seats
- Wide open spaces
- Car rides
- Overstimulating events
- Being outside the home at all
- If the above situations or places are approached, they are done so with intense anxiety and/or require the presence of a trusted companion
The most effective treatment for Agoraphobia is Exposure Therapy. Treatment involves first assessing the individual’s fears related to avoided situations. If the individual fears heavy traffic, for example, because of thoughts that panic-like symptoms may occur there, we practice exposure to physical symptoms associated with panic (which is called “interoceptive exposure) so that the individual gets used to those sensations and stops feeling anxious when they occur. Exposure also includes gradually approaching the feared situations themselves as a means of teaching the brain that the situations are not dangerous and therefore do not require anxiety as a response. Exposures may occur both in and outside of our office, which means your therapist may accompany you as you approach previously avoided situations.
To learn more about what our treatment looks like, click here: What to Expect In Therapy