Rehab Centers for Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which individuals have intense fears of going to places where escape may be difficult or where there would be no access to help if something went wrong. It involves attacks of intense fear and anxiety about these situations and anticipating these situations as well as a fear of having a panic attack while in a place where escape would be difficult.
The symptoms of agoraphobia can make it very difficult for people suffering from the disorder to function in everyday life. While that is true, treatment at rehab centers for agoraphobia can help individuals overcome their fears and successfully cope with the symptoms, greatly helping their lives. Like all phobias, agoraphobia is often unreported so the actual number of people who suffer from this disorder is unknown. Most people who suffer from agoraphobia will also suffer from panic attack1s as a result of the anxiety that is associated with this phobia.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
The fears related to agoraphobia vary in their intensity from person to person, but they are similar across the board. According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, individuals with agoraphobia may:
- Fear of being in a crowd, shopping, standing in a line or other similar activities
- Fear of riding in a car or on public transit
- Creation of a “safety zone” and feeling anxious when outside of the safety zone
- Fear of being along outside of home
- Avoiding situations that are thought to possibly trigger a panic attack
- Keeping activities outside of the home to a minimum
- Feeling safer when with a trusted friend or family member
People with this disorder may experience panic attacks while in feared situations. Panic attacks are short periods of very intense anxiety which tend to start quickly and reach their ‘peak’ in about 10 minutes.
Panic attack symptoms:
- Intense fear
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Dizziness or faintness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hot flashes or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Fear of dying
- Fear of going crazy
Prevalence of Agoraphobia and Risk Factors
Some people are more likely than others to develop agoraphobia. For example, agoraphobia is more common in women than men, and the average age of onset is 20.
These are some other risk factors:
- A history of panic attacks
- A tendency to be nervous or anxious
- Inability to handle stressful situations
- Family members with panic disorders or phobias
- Exposure to traumatic events
- Having other psychiatric disorders
According to the National Institute of Mental Health approximately 1.8 million Americans age 18 or over experience agoraphobia without having a history of panic disorder in a given year.
Causes of Agoraphobia
The exact cause of anxiety and panic disorders is unknown, thought there are some theories. Agoraphobia is closely linked to panic disorder and may develop as a complication of the disorder, according to the National Health Service in the UK. In some people it arises in response to associating panic attacks with particular places or situations where they had attacks and avoiding them. They think so much about the previous panic attack and worry so much that they begin to feel the symptoms of an attack when they go there and instead start avoiding the place or situation.
Some biological factors may contribute to agoraphobia, as well. Some believe that agoraphobia is a result of the body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ response, which is the body’s natural way for preparing itself for a dangerous or stressful situation. In the case of the disorder and other panic disorders a theory is that the fight or flight response sort of misfires and acts up abnormally. Other biological theories involve an imbalance of neurotransmitters, a malfunction of parts of the brain, or a dysfunction of spatial awareness. Genetics is thought to also have a role in the development of agoraphobia
Treatment at Agoraphobia Rehab Centers
Treatment for agoraphobia works to help individuals live more independently and to overcome irrational fears. Specific treatment goals usually include the reduction in the total number of panic attacks that someone experiences as well as teaching them how to manage panic attacks that do occur.
According to Columbia University, cognitive behavioral therapy and medication are some of the most common and most effective agoraphobia treatments. With that in mind, what works for one person as a treatment may not work for another. Some people have to try a few different approaches or therapists before they find what works for them. The National Institute of Mental Health does report, however, that treatment can help reduce or completely eliminate panic attacks in 70 to 90 percent of cases.
The most common treatments are:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT helps individuals identify patterns in thought and behavior that lead to panic attacks and anxiety. The aim of CBT is to change those thoughts and behaviors so that the symptoms of panic and anxiety can be relieved. CBT helps individuals learn how to relax and to confront feared situations.
- Exposure Therapy: In exposure therapy individuals with agoraphobia are exposed to the thing that causes them intense fear and anxiety while in a safe environment. This helps people face their fears and gain control of situations that they were unable to handle previously.
- Applied Relaxation: This therapeutic method re-teaches individuals how to relax, according to the UK National Health Service. A series of exercises is involved which help individuals spot signs and feelings of tension, relax the muscles to relieve that tension, and learn to use these to prevent panic and tension.
- Medications: In some cases medications will be prescribed in addition to one or both of the above therapies. Medications for agoraphobia may be antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or other anti-anxiety medications.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help You Overcome Agoraphobia
In addition to therapy at rehab centers, there are things you can do at home and in your everyday routine to help you cope with the symptoms of agoraphobia. Getting exercise every day can help you stay balanced and stress-free. Getting adequate sleep can be a great help in managing stress, as well. Exercising regularly can help you do this. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine may be advisable as these could add to stress in your life and contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. While in a stressful situation, one way to cope is to try slow and focused breathing which can help you calm down.
So, the three best things you can do to help manage your agoraphobia are:
- Get the right amount of sleep
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine