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Agoraphobia – Causes, symptoms, Physical and Psychological Effects and Treatment

Phobia means unrelenting fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes one to want to avoid it. Agoraphobia, then, is both a severe anxiety condition and a phobia, as well as a pattern of avoid-ant behavior.
Agoraphobia is the irrational fear of crowded places, people, or objects. It is characterized by an irrational fear of being in places away from familiar settings.
Agoraphobia arises; from an internal anxiety condition that has become so intense that the suffering individual fears going anywhere or doing anything where these feelings of panic have repeatedly occurred before.
The fear of going outdoors results from a dread of becoming embarrassed, trapped and helpless somewhere while having a panic attack – this never happens inside one’s own home.

Certain factors can cause Agoraphobia like stress in life, early experiences with loss of control, tendency of a person to breathe too quickly, brain chemicals imbalance, confusion over the normal symptoms of anxiety, a history of alcohol and drug abuse, a traumatic childhood experience.

Symptoms of agoraphobia

– Anxiety that one will have a panic attack when in a situation from which escape is not possible or is difficult or embarrassing.
– Intense fear.
– Disorientation.
– Rapid heart beat.
– Dizziness.
– Diarrhea.
– Individuals start to avoid situations that they feel provoke anxiety.
– Individuals generally have three common situations they tend to avoid, such as distance from home, crowded places and confined places.
– Individuals start to develop a condition known as ‘Anticipatory anxiety’ many hours before the time of the actual feared situations.

Psychological effects on person includes feeling depressed, feeling of light-headedness, fear of loss of control, low self-esteem & self confidence, frustration, state of confusion, anxiety and panic attacks, use of tranquillizers or alcohol to find relief, fear of succumbing to a heart attack.
Physical effects on person includes buzzing in the ear, blurred vision, dry mouth, tingling in the face and arms, difficulty in breathing, indigestion, sweating, nausea, trembling in hands, severe backache, weakness in legs.

Call your doctor if the symptoms are interfering with your personal, social, or professional life, if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, palpitations, dizziness, fainting spells, or unexplained weakness if you are depressed and feel suicidal or homicidal.

Treatment Options for Agoraphobia

Treatment for agoraphobia usually involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants are generally prescribed for patients with agoraphobia and panic symptoms. These drugs can have some side-effects.
– SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
– Tricyclic antidepressants or monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
– Anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines).

Psychotherapy may utilize persuasion, suggestion, reassurance, insight (perceptiveness, self-awareness), and instruction so that the person can see himself/herself and their problems in a more realistic way and wish to overcome and/or cope with them effectively.
– Cognitive – Behaviour Therapy (CBT): It is conducted with a basic goal being able to rid the patient of unwanted responses and to learn new ways of reacting to situations.
– Relaxation Techniques: This therapy involves the induction of relaxation techniques, such as breathing and mild exercise in the patient’s life.

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