Understanding Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia, like any other phobias, is an anxiety disorder.  In this case, it is often precipitated by the fear of having panic attack whenever they are in a public place or any other unfamiliar territory where the patient perceives that they have little control. 

Triggers for such anxiety may include crowds, wide open spaces, or traveling even in short distances.  This anxiety often comes with fear of social embarrassment. 

In severe cases, the sufferer may become confined to his or her home.  About 5 percent of Americans suffer from agoraphobia.

Causes of agoraphobia

It is not known up to this day what cases agoraphobia, however it is linked to the presence of other anxiety disorders, stressful environment, or substance abuse.  Women are twice as much affected compared to men.

A research has also associated agoraphobia with difficulties with spatial orientation, wherein they have weak a vestibular system, which constitutes the labyrinth of the inner ear providing dominant input in one’s movement and sense of balance. 

Because of this, they rely more on visual or tactile signals.  They may become disoriented when their visual cues are either sparse (such as in wide spaces) or overwhelmed (like in crowds).

Symptoms of agoraphobia

Diagnosing agoraphobia follows certain guidelines provided by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  For one, the patient should exhibit anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing. 

These situations are avoided or else are endured with obvious signs of distress or anxiety about a panic attack or symptoms similar to a panic attack. 

Also, anxiety is not associated with other forms of mental disorders such as social phobias, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, or separation anxiety disorder.

How to treat agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia can be treated through a gradual process of exposure therapy combined with cognitive therapy.  Anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications can also be prescribed.