Agoraphobia is a Greek word meaning open space and fear. Agoraphobia refers to intense anxiety/fear about being in certain places or situations. This may be due to the thought of not being able to escape these places or situation without difficulty or embarrassment. The unavailability of help is another concern. Often, these feared places are avoided in attempts to eliminate the anxiety felt. Females are two times more likely than males to experience this disorder, and about 2% of either adolescence or adults will have this experience in a given year. Genetics also play a significant role by being the causing factor 61% of the time. This is often triggered by stressful life events (Halter, 2018, p. 277).
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. Typical symptoms include fear of leaving home alone, crowds, waiting in line, enclosed spaces, open spaces, or using public transportation. Scary situations may include movie theaters, elevators, malls, buses, planes, or trains. In some cases, a person may feel so much fear that they are unable to leave their own home. Sometimes it is helpful for a support person such as a friend or family member to accompany them to public places. This kind of fear is out of proportion to any actual danger of the situation. This phobia can usually last for about six months or longer (Mayo Clinic, 2017).
This disease can effect a person’s life drastically. In severe cases these patients can’t even leave their own home. This could lead to isolation from friends and family, not attending school or work, not being able to run errands, and overall decreases normal daily activities. In severe cases this could lead to depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and other mental health disorders such as personality or additional anxiety disorders (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
The common treatment for agoraphobia is a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral treatment also known as CBT. These therapies could be used individually, but studies suggest this combination of treatments has the best and longest lasting results. Medications are supposed to reduce the feelings of fear along with anxiety, but it is only temporary. The most common medication used is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor also known as SSRI’s. These are a type of antidepressants, although, they have to be taken for weeks to be effective. The permanent treatment is CBT, because this treatment changes pathways in the brain to eliminate the feeling of fear. CBT is usually needed for 12 to 20 weeks when combined with medication to be effective. Without combination with medication CBT may have to be continued for about a year in order to be effective. CBT therapists help patients recognize what thoughts cause them to experience anxiety, in result, the therapist will teach patients how to react differently to those thoughts. In a typical session the therapist will encourage the patient to imagine a stressful situation, and then together they will work through the patient’s feelings. In the later weeks of therapy, the therapist will take the patient through a real life situation that is particularly stressful to them (Cleveland Clinic, 2015).
Agoraphobia causes avoidance behaviors which can be extremely life restricting. When signs and symptoms of this disorder start to interfere with normal activities of daily living then it is time to seek treatment. Without treatment this disorder could lead to other health concerns such as depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and other mental health disorders. The most effective treatment is a combination of medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. With therapy this disorder can be managed and overcome
- Cleveland Clinic. (2015, May 8). Agoraphobia Management and Treatment. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15769-agoraphobia/management-and-treatment
- Halter, M. J. (2018).Varcarolis foundations of psychiatric-mental health nursing: A clinical approach(8th ed.).
- St. Louis, MO: Elsevier. Mayo Clinic. (2017, November 18). Agoraphobia. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355987
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