What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is the intense fear of situations that may be difficult or embarrassing to leave.  People with this phobia worry that they will not be able to get somewhere safe.  They often worry about having a panic attack or panic symptoms like dizziness, vomiting, loss of control or difficulty breathing.

 

Sufferers usually fear large places, like malls, theaters, grocery stores or parks.  They also fear large crowds or places where they feel trapped, like traveling on a plane, driving in rush hour traffic, being on a bridge or visiting the doctor.  Usually, a person with agoraphobia can articulate what they fear or where they fear it.  Although, sometimes they only know that they have a sense of dread.

 

The person will begin to avoid the situations where he or she feels uncomfortable.  Agoraphobia can worsen without treatment.  In some extreme cases, the person can become trapped in his or her own home because he or she is too fearful to leave.

 

Sometimes, the person can participate in activities or travel if a trusted companion goes with him or her.

 

Treatment for agoraphobia consists of a combination of medication and desensitization or gradual exposure therapies.  This type of therapy involves gradually re-entering phobic situations and learning to cope with anxiety and panic as it occurs.

 

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 5.6% of adults develop agoraphobia at some point in their lives.  It is more common among women than men and it usually begins when they are in their twenties or thirties.

 

If you would like more information please contact The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Michigan chapter at 800-331-4264, or visit them online at www.namimi.org.

 

Phone code: 1759