Agoraphobia is a kind of anxiety disorder described by anxiety in environments where a person feels uncomfortable and dangerous or unsafe. Such type of situations include unfamiliar places, people-filled environments and wide-open spaces. It is also associated with the onset of panic attacks. Though commonly perceived as fear of public places, agoraphobia is now believed to be a complication of panic attacks. It commonly occurs in people between 18 to 54 years old.
Agoraphobia may be caused by several factors like anxiety disorders, a stressful environment, and substance abuse. Agoraphobics have also been found out to possess weak vestibular function. This type of people experience disorientation when visual or tactile signals are too few. Prolonged use of tranquilizers and sleeping pills has also been associated with the development of agoraphobia. Alcohol consumption and smoking of tobacco have also been linked with the onset of the disorder.
There are also some theories that are conceived and aimed to explain the occurrence of agoraphobia. Attachment theory states that agoraphobia is a form of attachment deficit or the temporary loss of the ability to withstand being separated from a secure base. Spatial theory on the other hand, tells that expansion of public space and contraction of private space have been intense for agoraphobic people.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT OF AGORAPHOBIA
Agoraphobia is usually detected after the development of panic disorder. The disorder can be diagnosed when the symptoms observed are worse than those of panic disorder but do not quite reach the standard for anxiety disorders.
There are various therapies that can be used to treat agoraphobia. Exposure therapy is aimed at making residual and subclinical avoidance disappear. Cognitive restructuring on the other hand includes guiding a patient through a dianoetic discussion where irrational beliefs are replaced by more factual and helpful statements. Relaxation techniques are also used to prevent the symptoms of anxiety and panic.
Medications that are used to treat anxiety disorders include selective reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, MAO inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants.