What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a condition that causes strong anxiety and panic. Symptoms are triggered when you do not feel safe. Some examples are when you are alone, feel trapped in an elevator, or are in a large crowd. You may fear you will be embarrassed when you panic. Your fears may make it hard for you to work or be involved in activities you enjoy.
What are the signs and symptoms of agoraphobia?
- Dizziness and shaking
- Fast heartbeat
- Thoughts that you are losing control
- Trouble breathing or chest pain
What increases my risk for agoraphobia?
The exact cause of agoraphobia is unknown. Your risk of agoraphobia increases if you have any of the following:
- A close family member with agoraphobia or an anxiety disorder
- A bad experience while you are in a certain place or situation
- History of abuse as a child
- Smoking, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse
How is agoraphobia diagnosed?
Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and when they began. He will ask what triggers your panic and if fear limits your daily activities. He will also ask about your medical history and if any family members have a similar condition. He may ask about your past and present alcohol or drug use.
How is agoraphobia treated?
- Medicines: Antidepressant and antianxiety medicines can help control your symptoms.
- Therapies: Your caregiver may recommend cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). This therapy helps you understand your condition and find ways to control your fear. You learn which thoughts bring anxiety, and how to change them and work through them. Exposure or desensitization therapy may help you face a fear so you can learn to decrease your anxiety.
How can I help myself?
- Cope with anxiety in a healthy way: Do not drink alcohol, use drugs, or smoke cigarettes to control your anxiety. Practice the other ways you have learned to cope during therapy. Bring someone you trust when you face your fears if this will help you cope.
- Keep a diary: Write down how you feel during certain situations. Include what you did to cope with your fear. The diary will help you and your caregiver see if you have less anxiety over time. Take your diary with you every time you visit your caregiver.
What are the risks of agoraphobia?
- Medicines used to treat agoraphobia may cause an allergic reaction. Medicines may cause sleepiness, decreased appetite, and stomach problems. Certain treatments may not work, or it may take a long time for you to feel better.
- Without treatment, your symptoms and fears may get worse. You are at risk of developing another type of anxiety disorder, depression, or thoughts of harming yourself.
Where can I find more information?
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)
8730 Georgia Avenue, Suite 600
Silver Spring , MD 20910
Phone: 1- 240 - 485-1001
Web Address: http://www.adaa.org
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
Web Address: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have trouble sleeping, or are sleeping all the time.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You have symptoms of an allergic reaction to your medicine, such as a rash or vomiting.
- You have sudden trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat. The symptoms are worse or last longer than you regularly experience when you panic.
- You think about hurting or killing yourself.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.