Friday, April 12, 2013

Agoraphobia: Its Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

People who suffer with agoraphobia are afraid of being trapped somewhere where they won't be able to get away or if something goes wrong they won't be able to get help.
The word agoraphobia comes originally from two Greek words 'agora' meaning "gathering place" or "assembly" and 'phobos' meaning "fear" or "morbid fear". So agoraphobia originally meant a fear of places where people gathered. It became to be used to describe the "fear of open spaces", but its meaning has now expanded further.
The word now refers to a number of phobias which often overlap each other in their definitions. They include phobias such as fear of:
  • leaving home
  • entering shops
  • crowds and public places
  • travelling alone in trains, buses, or planes.
What are the symptoms?
People with agoraphobia experience the same physical and mental symptoms as other people who suffer anxiety and panic attacks. What separates agoraphobia sufferers from the other suffers is their behavioral symptoms which are collectively known as 'avoidance' behaviour. These include:
  • Keeping away from open spaces, crowded places and public transport
  • Only being able to leave home for short periods, that is if they can leave at all
  • Needing a companion on any trips outside the home
  • Not going too far from home.
Some agoraphobia sufferers can make themselves visit the places mentioned above, but they never-the-less feel very anxious and remain fearful of panic attacks.
What are the causes?
In most cases of agoraphobia the person has had a panic attack in a certain place or situation. Because of this they worry about getting another attack. When they do visit the same or similar places the symptoms of the panic attack return because they have created the fear in their brains by continuously worrying about having a panic attack. It is like a rather vicious circle of events: Panic attack - fear of the panic attack - causing another panic attack. And so on. The eventual outcome is that in future the person avoids those places.
On the other hand, there are some agoraphobia sufferers who have no history of panic attacks in particular places.
This kind of agoraphobia is usually triggered by one of a number of irrational fears.
For example, being afraid of:
  • catching some terrible disease if the person mixes with other people
  • doing something humiliating in front of other people
  • being injured by some violent or terrorist activity if they go out.
What are the treatments?
  1. To follow an education program to get help in deciding what lifestyle changes may be necessary and how to achieve them.
  2. To learn self-help techniques such as relaxation to help to relieve the symptoms
  3. Seeking professional help involving behavioural therapy or possibly medication.
Who are the people affect?
In the USA about 3.2 million people are affected by agoraphobia.
In the UK about 0.4 million people are affected.
It is interesting to note that agoraphobia is twice as common in women as men. The most common age that aoraphobia usually starts is between the ages of eighteen and thirty five.
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