While many misconstrue agoraphobia as a fear of leaving the home, what it really is is a fear of being in situations in which one has no control. The person with agoraphobia feels as if they are out of control, too, in situations that might seem commonplace to others.
Agoraphobia is so intense that it interferes with a person’s ability to conduct a normal life. These individuals structure their lives to avoid triggers, which can cause panic attacks, limiting the scope of their lives.
Myths about Agoraphobia
Popular culture has perpetuated many myths about agoraphobia. One big one is thinking that agoraphobes do not leave the house. While some patients may do this, there are a wide range of ways in which symptoms of this disorder can present. Myths and misconceptions can create complications for those with a disorder. They may avoid seeking treatment, or else may have to deal with people thinking their disorder is false or exaggerated.
Each case of agoraphobia is unique. Individuals with this disorder should not judge themselves based on popular preconceived notions.
What an Agoraphobe Fears
Those suffering from agoraphobia experience fear of a wide range of things, including:
- Public transportation
- Crowded spaces or lines
- Open space
- Closed space
- Being alone
Agoraphobia fear other things, too. Again, every case is different, and diagnosis requires the help of a mental health professional.
The Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia can cause panic attacks meaning that the two disorders share many symptoms, including:
- Respiratory distress
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
- Flushing in the face
- Irritable bowels
- Fearing imminent death
Emotional symptoms included with agoraphobia include:
- Obsessively avoiding settings related to phobia
- Depending on others for day-to-day tasks
- Emotional detachment
- Feelings of hopelessness
Treating agoraphobia can involve therapy, medication, or both. Exposure therapy in particular can be effective with this disorder. The patient slowly exposes herself to triggers to build up coping mechanisms. Taking prescribed medication during exposure therapy can make the process safer and less stressful. Any development of a treatment plan should be done in cooperation with a trained mental health professional.