Monday, September 04, 2006


What Is Agoraphobia?

The term agoraphobia has been widely misunderstood. Its literal definition suggests a fear of "open spaces". In fact, agoraphobia is a condition which develops when a person begins to avoid spaces or situations associated with anxiety.

Agoraphobia arises; from an internal anxiety condition that has become so intense that the suffering individual fears going anywhere or doing anything where these feelings of panic have repeatedly occurred before. Once the panic attacks have started, these episodes become the ongoing stress, even when other more obvious pressures have diminished. This sets up a "feedback condition" which generally leads to increased numbers of panic attacks and, for some people, an increase in the situations or events which can produce panicky feelings.

A person may fear having anxiety attacks, "losing control", or embarrassing him/herself in such situations. Many people remain in a painful state of anxious anticipation because of these fears. Some become restricted or "housebound" while others function "normally" but with great difficulty, often attempting to hide their discomfort.

Agoraphobia, then, is both a severe anxiety condition and a phobia, as well as a pattern of avoidant behavior.

How Does Agoraphobia Develop?

Agoraphobia develops after a person has experienced an individual, or series of, panic attacks. The person associates the panic with the place where it occured, and that place is considered as no longer being safe. As the "safe" zones dwindle, the person becomes more and more restricted to those few places that are still considered safe; often the only zone which remains after continued panic attacks is the person's own home. If panic attacks begin to occur inside the home, then the person's space is further restricted, sometimes to an individual room.

An agoraphobic does not only avoid places where panic has occured. They can also avoid activities or actions that have been anxiety-producing. A few examples of these would be: answering or talking on the telephone, listening to the radio or watching tv, allowing visitors into their home or safe place.

Agoraphobics can also fear situations that produce feelings of "being trapped". Standing in a line at a store, attending an event, movie or family gathering, or even stopping at a gas station to fill up their tank, are examples of situations where an agoraphobic might feel their early departure, should an attack occur, might draw attention to themselves, and therefore are also to be avoided.

What Agoraphobics Want Others To Know:

  • They cannot explain why they are afraid...they just are.
  • They are not "mental" or "crazy." Agoraphobia is a recognizable, legitimate disability.
  • They cannot "just do it", not for you or for anyone else. It has to be safe for THEM.
  • Safety zones can change. What may have been safe one day will not necessarily be safe on another day.
  • Cajoling, persuading only produces more anxiety when you do it. Please don't.
  • To feel safe with someone, the agoraphobic MUST know that their disabilty is accepted and they are free to express their fear, withdraw for a while, or completely leave the situation/place without explanation other than "I need to leave now."

Can Agoraphobia Be Cured?

Yes. Through medication, counseling and desensitization techniques, an agoraphobic can learn to accept their fears and overcome them. The length of treatment varies from one agoraphobic to the next.


Maximus Doom said...

This is a very interesting subject for me. I have friends who suffer from this condition and panic attacks, as well. It is really fascinating from the mental perception/reconditioning aspect. I believe that I had mild cases growing up and was eventually able to "trick" myself out of it. I grew up a skinny nerd bookwork (and still am; just in disguise) and was terrorized in school at every turn. Hmmmm...I will continue reading more. Great blog about a real issue people deal with everyday.

Barb said...

Thank you.

I've had this for a long time. The severity of it comes and goes.

It's so hard for someone who's never experienced it understand why it could be so hard to just walk out your own door. But it is. The longest I ever stayed in was six months! Thankfully it hasn't been that bad for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

Back about five yrs ago, I stayed inside for about six months also, unless my husband was with me. I've been working for about 5 yrs now, but I *still don't want to leave the house and am very quiet and depressed each morning as we drive to work. A lot of weekends I don't go out at all.

Now my brother is seeing a psychiatrist because he's started having panic attacks (he lives in a different state).

Nature? Nurture?

David said...

You're doing a good job here. When I'm not in 'the wrong place' I'm just like anyone else. I just have very strict boundaries and the more we inform people about them the more will understand we are not mental, just extremely sensitive. It does change though, and gets worse and better so I am not stuck the same way. Keep spreading the message.

Anonymous said...

Even though the anti-impotence drug xanax yields certain side-effects like any other chemically synthesized medication, the benefits shown by the medicine far outweigh its side-effects. However, one of the striking xanax benefits is that along with treating moderate anxiety, nervous tension, depression as well as panic attacks, the medicine also provides effective treatment of anxiety due to neurosis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Anonymous said...

depends, some manifestations of agoraphobia in individuals can not be cured. It is best viewed on an individual by individual basis as far as curing is concerned.

Saying it can be cured, is like saying - 'I found the solution to Kierkegaard's dread, or I can fix Camus' notion of existential angst'

It as much a person's physical, physiological, psychological, environmental, and mental makeup as it is of their worldview and philosophical base.

Alot of what you have described is accurate, but it is simplistic and naive to say it can be cured as much as it is to say I can bring about world peace through lectures - it is simply conjecture.

Anonymous said...

I'm also dealing with this as well and its like I'm trapped in my own world I lost out on my family friends and hopefully not my husband I've been dealing with this for almost a life time to where I'm aiming for the right appetite is very poor my sleep is disturbed do to what tomorrow will bring I cannot stand feeling this anxious all the time I lay around the house doing nothing but the littlest things I can do and that's cooking cleaning bathing and really haven to struggle. To make peace with all my loved ones...I stay angry all the time if though the world has done me something..I'm a very smart person and 1 thing for certain I no that I'm not crazy...the only meds that I took for this was Xanax...but obviously they are not working wonders for me they use to on first but not doc suggested that I start on lexapro to all wish me much luck as I will also do the same in return...Good Luck and we can start a new life with the help of our God

Trust and Believe'

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right that's why I'm trying to get my lexapro in my system hoping that it can balance me out from this horrible nightmare I've been facing for to long...wish me luck

Thanks again : ))