What is Agoraphobia? What are the symptoms and treatment methods?
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that manifests itself as fear and avoidance of certain places and situations. People with agoraphobia experience extreme anxiety when they find themselves in places where they may have a panic attack or where they cannot get help. For this reason, they avoid leaving their homes, taking public transportation, being in crowded places or being alone. Agoraphobia can negatively affect a person's social and professional life.
What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia symptoms may vary from person to person. Some people are afraid of only certain places or situations, while others can be afraid of almost anywhere. People with agoraphobia often experience anxiety in the following situations:
- get away from home
- Using public transportation
- Being in open or closed areas
- Being in tight or confined spaces
- Crowding or waiting in line
- being alone
People with agoraphobia fear that they may have a panic attack in these situations. A panic attack is a condition that begins suddenly and is characterized by intense feelings of fear, anxiety, or terror. The following physical symptoms may occur during a panic attack:
- Palpitations, rapid or slow heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing, feeling of suffocation
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting
- Sweating, shivering, feeling cold or hot
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Numbness, tingling, or pins-and-needles sensations
- Fear of detachment from reality, loss of control, or death
People with agoraphobia try to avoid places and situations that make them anxious in order to avoid experiencing these symptoms. This disrupts their social relationships, work life and quality of life.
What Causes Agoraphobia?
The exact cause of agoraphobia is unknown. However, there are some risk factors that can lead to agoraphobia. These are:
- Genetic predisposition: People with a family history of agoraphobia or other anxiety disorders have a higher risk of developing agoraphobia.
- Personality traits: It is thought that perfectionist, responsible, sensitive or anxious people are more prone to agoraphobia.
- Traumatic experiences: Traumatic events such as physical or sexual abuse, a violent accident, or the loss of a loved one can trigger agoraphobia.
- Other psychological problems: Other psychological disorders such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia can trigger or worsen agoraphobia.
- Substance use: Use of substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs can increase the symptoms of agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia usually begins in the 20s, but can occur at any age. It is more common in women than in men.
How to Treat Agoraphobia?
Psychotherapy and medication are often used together in the treatment of agoraphobia. Psychotherapy helps people with agoraphobia understand and cope with their fears. The most commonly used method in psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy allows people with agoraphobia to question the causes and consequences of their fears and change them in a more realistic and positive way. It also involves people with agoraphobia gradually being exposed to places or situations that make them anxious and learning relaxation techniques to reduce panic attack symptoms.
In drug treatment, antidepressants and anxiolytics are generally used. Antidepressants improve mood by balancing chemicals such as serotonin in the brain. Anxiolytics are effective for reducing anxiety. However, since these drugs may have side effects, they should be used under the supervision of a doctor.
Changes in lifestyle are also important in the treatment of agoraphobia. Regular exercise, healthy eating, paying attention to sleep patterns, staying away from alcohol and cigarettes, developing stress management skills and receiving social support can contribute to the treatment of people with agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is a serious psychological problem. However, with appropriate treatment, symptoms can be controlled and quality of life can be improved. If you suspect agoraphobia or someone close to you has this problem, it is important to seek professional help without delay.