Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia

What is agoraphobia?

There is a common misconception that agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces, and that people who suffer from it are never able to go into such situations.

In fact; if you suffer from agoraphobia, then you fear going to places where you feel trapped, or from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or in which help may not be available.

There are many types of situation that a person with this issue may fear, for instance:

  • leaving home
  • going into shops
  • being in crowded places
  • travelling alone on buses, planes, or trains
  • going in a lift
  • standing in queue

Although people with agoraphobia will often try to avoid the situations they fear, they can go into them if they really need to, or if they have a ‘safe’ companion.

At one time it was thought that this issue was a consequence of panic disorder; in other words, it resulted from a fear of panicking in particular situations. Whilst this is indeed true for many people who suffer from panic attacks, almost half of all people with agoraphobia do not panic (although many of them may well be worried about the possibility of panicking in their feared situations).

Once you have had agoraphobia for a year or more, the issue is likely to continue for a long time unless you receive treatment.

Agoraphobia is often associated with several other phobias that lead to a fear of being in situations from which it is difficult to escape, or where there would be little help available. These include fear of:

  • crime
  • terrorism
  • illness
  • accident

Dealing with agoraphobia

You can be helped to deal with your agoraphobia with a variety of different types of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. Such therapy will enable you to identify, challenge, and change the habitual thought patterns and behaviours that are causing, and maintaining, your fears and anxiety.

Combining hypnotherapy with other psychotherapeutic approaches can help you to identify dysfunctional beliefs, and to ‘rehearse’ new ways of thinking and behaving in a safe environment. Finally, such approaches can also provide you with numerous techniques for relaxing and having more control over your emotions.

If your anxiety is very severe then your doctor may prescribe you medication to help reduce the level of distress. Whilst such drug therapy will not address the cause of your problem, it may help you to be more receptive to psychotherapy if you had previously felt completely overwhelmed by your fear.

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