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What is agoraphobia and what causes it?

If a person believes that he or she will find themselves in a place where they may have a panic attack that is witnessed by others, the condition is called Agoraphobia. Due to this phobia, the individual will make every effort to avoid places where this may happen; shopping centers, crowded areas and public transportation being just three places.

There are people who suffer so badly from Agoraphobia that they rarely leave the comfort of their own home. They cannot feel safe in any public place where there may be a crowd.

The disorder is not the same as claustrophobia, which is a fear of closed spaces nor is it a fear of wide-open spaces. The fear is one of dreading an embarrassing situation, perhaps feeling trapped when a panic attack strikes.

The symptoms of Agoraphobia:

Physical symptoms are rare because the sufferer does everything in his power to avoid situations, which may trigger the condition. If it does happen though, the physical symptoms may include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Flushed feeling, sweating
  • Dizziness and a feeling of being light headed
  • Upset stomach and the possibility of diarrhea

The psychological symptoms are at times, related to the physical symptoms:

  • Fear of humiliation and embarrassment
  • Fear that they may die of a heart attack, or they can’t breath
  • Loss of self-confidence and loss of control
  • Deep depression

What causes the condition?

Even the experts are not 100% sure of what causes agoraphobia, although it is believed that it is a combination of physical and psychological factors.

Panic disorder: It is thought that it may be a manifestation of panic disorder, which is a condition whereby a person has regular bouts of intense fear which in turn trigger physical reactions for no apparent reason. These attacks are very frightening for the sufferer who feels that they are suffering from a loss of control. The sufferer often attempts to link the attack to a situation that happened during the past and believes that avoidance in the future can prevent a recurrence. As they know the issue is crowds, they make every effort to avoid them.

Medications: Agoraphobia does appear to have some linkage to a long-term use of tranquilizers or sleeping tablets. These drugs contain benzodiazepine and when the dependence on this drug is treated, the agoraphobia symptoms appear to wane.

Other factors that appear to have an impact on the phobia are a history of substance abuse, a childhood trauma, an extremely devastating experience or a history of mental illness such as depression or an eating disorder.

Treatment usually involves both psychotherapy and medication and for the majority of those who take therapy, the condition either simply goes away or the patient finds it easy to control.

Agoraphobia is one of the conditions that are recognized and treated by the Behavior Hospital of Bellaire located in Houston TX. The hospital takes inpatients and specializes in chemical dependency and mental health care.

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