Definition Of Agoraphobia. What Really Causes It And How To Handle The Fear.
As promised in a previous article regarding panic attacks, I decided today to explain the definition of agoraphobia. People with agoraphobia, panic and fear situations in which it’s difficult to escape in an emergency or to obtain help.
Therefore, they avoid, among other things, wide and open spaces, crowds, cinemas, malls, parks, buses or elevators.
Many go through threatening physical symptoms such as palpitations and dizziness in an anxiety-filled environment.
Over time, fear increasingly determines their life. Read how agoraphobia develops, how it affects a person and how to treat it.
The term agoraphobia derives from the Greek. “Agora” meaning “market place” and “phobia” translating to ” fear” indicates that people with agoraphobia are afraid of public places.
The agoraphobia is, therefore, also referred to as a “fear of space“. This is often confused with claustrophobia, which describes the fear of narrow and closed areas. Claustrophobia, however, belongs to the so-called specific phobias.
The agoraphobia can occur even in confined spaces. But those concerned are not afraid of the narrowness or closeness of the space itself. They are afraid that in case of an emergency they will not be able to escape from there or receive no aid.
Trying to avoid situations where retreating from an anxiety attack would be embarrassing – for example, during a theater performance. Thus, they always make sure to be near an exit when entering a public space.
Agoraphobia, unlike many other anxiety disorders, does not refer to a particular situation or object. It can occur in very different places, such as in the cinema, on the bus or on bridges.
Without therapeutic help, agoraphobia leads to severe impairment of quality of life. Some do not dare to go out of the house at all, or need escorts, and always carry their medicines and a mobile phone with them for emergencies.
Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder
Agoraphobia is very common in combination with panic attacks. About 35 to 56 percent of patients suffer from agoraphobia with panic disorder. Panic attacks are severe anxiety attacks that usually last a few minutes.
Those affected experience them as extremely threatening because severe physical indications also arise in addition to the psychological symptoms.
These include rapid palpitations, sweating, dizziness and many other signs that patients consider life-threatening. Fear is becoming more and more energized.
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“Fear of Fear”
A key feature of agoraphobia is that those affected are afraid of possible panic attacks or anxiety in public. This phenomenon is called “fear of fear” or “phobophobia”.
The fear is also mostly confirmed, as the fear of fear triggers physical tension. Those concerned pay careful attention to the smallest physical changes that could mark the beginning of a panic attack and react excessively anxiously.
In the interaction of the psyche and the body, this can lead to severe nervosity or even a panic attack.
For fear of uncertain situations, the person concerned plans appointments or events down to the smallest detail.
All the rumination and worries in advance are for them at least as agonizing, if not worse, than the actual situation.
How Many Are Affected?
Anxiety disorders are widespread. About four percent of the population suffers from agoraphobia at least once in their lives. Women are three times as likely to be affected as men. The onset of mental disorder is in late adolescence or young adulthood.
Few patients suffer from pure agoraphobia. Many also develop other anxiety disorders, but also depression, alcohol addictions and personality disorders go hand in hand.
For the diagnosis of agoraphobia, those affected must show certain symptoms according to the ICD-10 classification of mental disorders.
As the main criterion, they must avoid or fear at least two of the following situations:
2. Public places
3. Traveling alone
4. Going abroad
In addition, there must be at least two of the following physical or psychological anxiety symptoms that also occur together.
People with agoraphobia always suffer from one or more of the following symptoms:
1. Heart palpitations, increased heart rate
4. Dry mouth
Common discomfort of the chest and abdomen area include:
1. Breathing difficulties
2. Enhanced anxiety level
3. Chest pain or discomfort
4. Nausea or discomfort in the abdomen
5. The feeling of dizziness, insecurity, weakness or drowsiness
6. Sensing that you or the environment are not real (depersonalization or derealisation)
7. The fright of loss of control
8. Fear of going mad
9. Panic of dying
Common Psychological Symptoms
People with agoraphobia are particularly afraid of panic attacks or fainting spells in public. All patients with agoraphobia are scared of crowds. However, the reasons for this are different.
People who suffer from pure agoraphobia without panic attacks are more likely to fear embarrassing situations, such as soaking themselves in sweat for fear.
In agoraphobia with panic attacks, it is not so much the embarrassment of anxiety attacks that causes trouble for the patient, but rather the fear of not receiving help and dying as a result of physical symptoms.
Those affected agonize greatly from their fears. However, they are aware that they are excessive and overreacting. Nevertheless, this knowledge alone cannot tame agitation.
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It gains momentum over time and already occurs when the patients only imagine the dreaded situation.
At first, they only shun a few places, later hardly any place seems safe. Their leisure activities severely restrict them, and their work becomes a challenge.
Agoraphobia, therefore, has serious consequences, both professionally and financially, as well as in private and social life.
Agoraphobia: Causes and Risk Factors
There is evidence of a hereditary component of agoraphobia. Children whose parents suffer from agoraphobia have an increased risk of developing this mental disorder as well.
The messenger substances in the brain also have an influence on the formation. Malfunctions of the serotonin and norepinephrine system are possible causes.
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However, whether the disorder really develops also depends to a large extent on the psychosocial factors.
Burdens As A Cause
Stressful life events increase the likelihood of agoraphobia in anxious people. Persons with agoraphobia have often had traumatic experiences in childhood.
The loss of a parent due to death or divorce, but also illness or sexual abuse can later contribute to an anxiety disorder. Even in adulthood, stress can trigger agoraphobia. People in partnerships are less likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder than single people.
Some people are more anxious than others and, thus, more prone to agoraphobia. They perceive physical changes, such as palpitations, more strongly and experience them as more threatening.
They often imagine catastrophic scenarios. The consequence of this is anxiety, which in turn increases the physical symptoms.
In many cases, agoraphobia begins with a panic attack. In a safe, public place, sufferers suddenly experience strong body reactions such as heart pounding or dizziness.
Among other factors, such complaints can originally occur or amplify through caffeine consumption, smoking, alcohol, stress, etc.
The real trigger for the panic attack is that those affected overestimate the symptoms and experience them as a threat. Fear and physical reactions then rock each other up.
As a result of this confrontation, people avoid the place where these symptoms occurred. Over time, trepidation spreads to other situations and places.
An important factor contributing to anxiety is the feeling of having no control over the physical reactions during the anxiety state.
Therefore, those affected also avoid unknown places. They fear to be helpless at the mercy of the situation and the foreign people.
Agoraphobia: Examinations and Diagnosis
At the beginning of treatment, the doctor must perform a medical examination to exclude physical illnesses as the cause of the discomfort. There are a number of physical problems that can trigger severe anxiety.
These include, for example, heart problems, thyroid and lung diseases, vitamin and mineral deficiencies or balance disorders.
In addition to a detailed discussion, the examination includes a blood count as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG) for checking the heart. If necessary, the doctor will carry out further examinations.
To determine if your fears have a psychological cause, the doctor might ask you the following questions:
1. Do you sometimes experience severe anxiety associated with physical symptoms, such as palpitations, sweating or shortness of breath?
2. Are there places or situations you avoid for fear of anxiety?
3. How do you feel in large crowds or in public places?
If your descriptions match the disorder of agoraphobia, the doctor will refer you to an outpatient psychotherapist or a psychosomatic clinic.
A psychotherapist or psychologist is able to make an accurate diagnosis. A questionnaire can be used to find out if there are other mental disorders that require treatment.
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However, sufferers best try staying away from tricyclic antidepressants. They have stronger side effects and usually, over time, cause dependency. It is always better to sort to homeopathic medicine, which, with the correct mindset, can bring about healing and lasting relief from agoraphobia, anxiety and panic attacks.
Agoraphobia: Disease History And Prognosis
Agoraphobia often begins suddenly with a first fear attack in a public place. Only in a few cases does the mental disorder pass by itself. Agoraphobia usually becomes chronic without intervention.
The longer the mental disorder persists, the more likely other problems, such as alcohol abuse or depressive symptoms, will occur, as well.
Agoraphobia often takes place in phases. The constitution of those affected can fluctuate from one day to another. Even after a longer period of discomfort, the anxiety symptoms can recur.
While therapy may be helpful for some, many have claimed that they didn’t have success, but, on the contrary, ended up on prescription drugs dependency.
What’s worse, most of the prescribed medication is only effective for a couple of months until the body gets used to the substances.
After that, the dose must be enhanced, thus, slow addiction forms, which most patients are not even aware of at first.
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I’ve Beaten Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia Without Therapy, So Can You!
Dearest friends. If you were reading this article, then I’m certain that whether you or a loved one is suffering from either agoraphobia, panic attacks or, unfortunately, even both. I dedicated already a few posts to help people cope with their agoraphobia, panic disorder, anxiety and to win back their lives.
Why? Let me tell you that I was suffering for decades from both, severe panic attacks and agoraphobia. And, yes, I was sliding downhill fast. I was losing friends, my relationship broke, plus I was confined within my four walls without any job!
I even picked up drinking to cope with the panic symptoms only to figure out that all it does is making me sicker and giving me even more intense panic attacks. However, I cannot complain, because through the gloomiest times I received the greatest blessing of all.
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To start writing for YOU and reaching out to YOU; helping you with advice, support and encouraging words really has become part of me. Please, feel free to read my personal story regarding the panic disorder and agoraphobia in the link below.
What Causes Panic Attacks In People
I truly hope I could explain to you the definition of agoraphobia.
I want you to take care of yourselves and know that it is possible to beat this disorder without getting addicted to chemical substances and prescription medication.
All it takes is to rewire your mind. You don’t even know how powerful you truly are.
If you need any help or have any questions, please, leave me a comment below. I’ll be happy to aid you however I can. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our website to claim your free ebook. Furthermore, like, follow and share us on social media.
I’m sending you much healing, love, happiness, courage energy and an abundance of all good things. Remember that you are beautiful, precious, unique and endlessly loved. Thus, keep on shining.