Agoraphobia: fear of crowds, and going out in public.
It is not a "disorder": it is a reaction to an experience or event.
The ancient term “agoraphobia” is translated from Greek as fear of an open
marketplace. It consists of severe, ongoing anxiety about being in situations
that escaping from might be difficult; or avoidance of situations such as
being alone outside of the home, traveling in a car, bus, or airplane, or being
in a crowded area.
The anxiety is caused by fear that there's no easy way to escape or get help
if the anxiety intensifies. Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after
having one or more panic attacks, causing them to worry about having another
attack and avoid the places where it may happen again.
People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public
place, especially where crowds gather. You may feel that you need a
companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with you to public places. The
fear can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home.
Dawn Cove Abbey
Roadside Assistance For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman M.A. © 2007-2019
Questions and comments welcomed.
Agoraphobia is one of the "anxiety disorders.
But with psychotherapy and medications, you can escape the trap of agoraphobia and live
a more enjoyable life.
Typical agoraphobia symptoms include fear of:
Leaving home alone
Crowds or waiting in line
Enclosed spaces, such as movie theaters, elevators or small stores
Open spaces, such as parking lots, bridges or malls
Using public transportation, such as a bus, plane or train
These situations cause anxiety because you fear you won't be able to escape or find help
if you start to feel panicked or have other disabling or embarrassing symptoms.
Fear or anxiety almost always results from exposure to a situation
Your fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation
You avoid the situation, you need a companion to go with you, or you endure the situation
but are extremely distressed
You experience significant distress or problems with social situations, work or other areas
in your life because of the fear, anxiety or avoidance
Your phobia and avoidance usually lasts six months or longer.
Agoraphobia can begin in childhood, but usually starts in the late teen or early adult years —
usually before age 35 — but older adults can also develop it. Women are diagnosed with
agoraphobia more often than men are.
Risk factors for agoraphobia include:
Having panic disorder or other phobias
Responding to panic attacks with excessive fear and avoidance
Experiencing stressful life events, such as abuse, the death of a parent or being attacked
Having an anxious or nervous temperament
Having a blood relative with agoraphobia
Techniques you can use during a panic attack to bring your emotions under control.
Having more confidence in controlling your emotions may make you more
confident coping with previously uncomfortable situations and environments.
Stay where you are – try to resist the urge to run to a place of safety during a panic attack;
if you're driving, pull over and park where it's safe to do so.
Focus – it's important for you to focus on something non-threatening and visible, such as
the time passing on your watch, or items in a supermarket; remind yourself the frightening
thoughts and sensations are a sign of panic and will eventually pass.
Breathe slowly and deeply – feelings of panic and anxiety can get worse if you breath
too quickly; try to focus on slow, deep breathing while counting slowly to 3 on each breath
in and out.
Challenge your fear – try to work out what it is you fear and challenge it; you can achieve
this by constantly reminding yourself that what you fear isn't real and will pass.
Creative visualisation – during a panic attack, try to resist the urge to think negative
thoughts, such as "disaster"; instead, think of a place or situation that makes you feel
peaceful, relaxed or at ease: once you have this image in your mind, try to focus your
attention on it.
Don't fight an attack – trying to fight the symptoms of a panic attack can often make things
worse; instead, reassure yourself by accepting that although it may seem embarrassing and
your symptoms may be difficult to deal with, the attack isn't life threatening.
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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): this (CBT) is based on the idea that unhelpful and
unrealistic thinking leads to negative behaviour.
CBT aims to break this cycle and find new ways of thinking that can help you behave more
positively. For example, many people with agoraphobia have the unrealistic thought that if
they have a panic attack it will kill them.
The CBT therapist will try to encourage a more positive way of thinking – for example,
although having a panic attack may be unpleasant, it isn't fatal and will pass.
This shift in thinking can lead to more positive behaviour in terms of a person being more
willing to confront situations that previously scared them.
CBT is usually combined with exposure therapy. Your therapist will set relatively modest
goals at the start of treatment, such as going to your local corner shop.
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Dawn Cove Abbey
Deerfield, (Yarmouth County) Nova Scotia, Canada - 2008 rev: 2019
How to stop, or prevent an Anxiety Attack:
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