Understanding Agoraphobia – A Quick 101 Guide

3 Things You Need to Know About Agoraphobia Right Now

1) Agoraphobia Can Happen to Almost Anyone

Did you know that approximately 1 in 50 people will suffer from agoraphobia at some point in their life?

That’s right! According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 3.2 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 54 (or 2.2 percent of this population) have agoraphobia at any given time.

2) Agoraphobia Develops Through a Process Called “Conditioning”

Agoraphobia usually begins with an episode of spontaneous panic. Following an initial panic attack, a process called “conditioning” begins.

In other words, the person starts avoiding the place or situation in which the panic attack occurred because he or she has learned to associate it with the panic.

The person also becomes afraid of having another panic attack. This fear leads to obsessive worry about when and where the next panic attack might occur. The person literally “fears the fear.”

This obsessive worry triggers more frequent panic attacks and the person gets conditioned to associate panic with each new situation or place where he or she has a panic attack.

Because unexplained panic attacks are horrifying experiences, most people start avoiding all the places they have panic attacks.

At some point, panic attacks are experienced in so many places that the fear of having a panic attack generalizes. The person associates panic with nearly everywhere and avoids most public places.

In the most severe cases, people with agoraphobia become confined to their homes. In extreme cases, agoraphobics are even confined to their beds.

3) There are Effective Treatments Available for Agoraphobia That Reverse the Conditioning Process.

There are behavioural techniques like cue-controlled relaxation, systematic desensitization, and flooding.

There are cognitive techniques like cognitive restructuring, thought stopping, and focusing. There is insight therapy to help figure out the root cause of your fear.

There are a host of other techniques like visualization, hypnosis, meditation, and biofeedback. Not to mention all of the medications being prescribed for agoraphobia today.

While the options are many, you need access to the right information to help you know what treatments to choose.


agoraphobia

Understanding How To Treat Agoraphobia is the First Step Toward Recovery

Not all therapy is equal. While there are many forms of treatment for agoraphobia, some are more effective than others.

Also, different therapies work better for different people. The average agoraphobic is usually at the mercy of a psychologist or therapist to prescribe a treatment for them.

How can you be sure that a therapist will choose the best treatment for you?

Many psychologists will prescribe a form of therapy they are most familiar with.

This may or may not be the most effective therapy or the best form of therapy for you.

Also, doctors are not always so good at letting you know about the side effects of medications.

You need to know your treatment options for agoraphobia!

You need access to complete and accurate information to help you decide which treatments or medications for agoraphobia are right for you.


psychotherapy

Are You Concerned Right Now Because You or Someone You Love Has Agoraphobia?

If so, you need the very latest information about agoraphobia right away… You need to know things like:

How to recognize the symptoms of agoraphobia…so can tell if you have agoraphobia or a different disorder.

The most effective treatments for agoraphobia according to current research…so you can decide if one of these treatments is right for you.

The benefits and possible side effects of the most commonly used medications for agoraphobia…so you won’t become addicted to a medication with terrible side effects that only make things worse.

Some criteria for choosing the right professional help…so you will be able to choose a therapist that has the right qualifications an experience to help you with agoraphobia.


anxious person

The Average Person with Agoraphobia Takes at Least One Full Year to Be Diagnosed

….. and Even Longer to Learn Enough About Agoraphobia to Start Recovering.

Here are four reasons why:

Reason 1: Most people don’t know what is wrong with them at first.

The symptoms of agoraphobia, especially during panic attacks, feel like those of a physical illness.

People with agoraphobia commonly visit about three or four of doctors trying to find a diagnosis.

Reason 2: Many doctors don’t know how to diagnose agoraphobia. Most doctors will listen to physical complaints and run tests.

They will report that the tests are negative, but often fail to suggest the presence of agoraphobia due to a lack of training in this area.

Doctors who can tell that your symptoms are caused by anxiety or panic still may not be able to tell what type of anxiety disorder you have or provide information about it.

Reason 3: Most people go through a period of denial.

When faced with the diagnosis of a psychological disorder like agoraphobia, the human reaction is to throw up defences and deny it.

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as the type of person who would have a “mental problem” or “psychological disorder.”

Reason 4: Most people are reluctant to seek treatment for a psychological disorder because of the stigma.

Psychological problems carry a stigma in society that physical illnesses and injuries do not.

The average person tends to look upon a psychological disorder as personal weakness or lack of will power.

Since no one wants to be viewed as lacking motivation and willpower, most people try hard not to admit, even to themselves, that they have agoraphobia.

Even people who are able to admit to themselves that they have a psychological disorder can still have trouble admitting it to anyone else.

It’s hard enough to try to explain irrational fear and panic attacks to your friends and family, and even harder to seek out professional help.


fear of outdoors

Learn Everything You Can About Agoraphobia and Start Your Recovery

It’s Scary to Be in the Dark About Agoraphobia.

The best course of action to take if you start experiencing panic attacks or the symptoms of agoraphobia is to:

1) See a doctor to rule out medical problems. (As explained in The Agoraphobia Treatment Guide, there are some medical problems that mimic the symptoms of agoraphobia).

2) Consult a mental health professional to get a diagnosis and begin treatment.

3) Before you start paying for professional help – learn everything you can about agoraphobia and your treatment options.

You need to know what type of mental health professional to see and be ready to intelligently discuss your treatment options.

Remember, professional psychologists charge about $100 per hour. You don’t want to waste time.

That’s why you should do your homework BEFORE you consult an agoraphobia specialist.

Knowledge of agoraphobia is the first step to recovery and the sooner you get started on your recovery the faster it will be.

However, the longer you wait to learn about this disorder and how to treat it, the more agoraphobia has a chance to take root, and the more difficult your recovery may be.

Warning: It May Be Hard To Undertake A Major Research Project To Learn About Agoraphobia While You Are Suffering From It.


Questions You Should Consider Before Starting Treatment For Agoraphobia

If you want to recover from agoraphobia, you absolutely need to know:

What treatment options you should be discussing with your therapist…so you can make the best use of the time and money you spend in therapy.

How long a particular type of therapy should last and how to know whether your therapy is working or not…so you don’t throw valuable time and money down the drain.

Whether or not you should take medication in addition to psychotherapy to control your disorder….so you won’t take the risks associated with medication unless you really need to.

Alternative choices to the most popularly prescribed medications like Xanax and Ativan, and how to know which medication is right for you…know how to decide if you should try an anti-depressant, a tranquilizer, or both.

How to use medications safely, without developing tolerance, dependence, or suffering horrible withdrawal symptoms when you try to get off… have the information you need to weight the benefits and risks of a medication before trying it.

Once you’ve gained control of agoraphobia, whether there is anything you can do to make sure it won’t return…know for sure that you are doing the things that lead to permanent recovery and not just temporary symptom relief.

How to overcome bad agoraphobia symptoms like hyperventilating and obsessively monitoring your body for unusual symptoms…so you can make your life easier while you recover and not suffer any more than you have to.

How to develop self-care habits that will support you through particularly anxious periods of time…develop a lifestyle that supports your recovery.

Techniques you can use to ignore agoraphobic or anxious thoughts when they arise…so you can regain control of your mind and not be constantly preoccupied.

How to overcome setbacks and periods of doubt in your recovery…understand normal recovery cycles to keep from getting discouraged.

How to remove subconscious roadblocks to recovery that you may not be aware of…so you don’t unknowingly sabotage your own recovery (in the same ways that many of us do).


Hopefully we’ve shed a little light on what agoraphobia is and how you can begin to deal with it properly.

If you have anything you can share with us, please leave us a comment below, as we’d love to hear from you!

The Potential Behind An Anxious Mind

If you have an anxiety disorder like agoraphobia or experience panic attacks, then you have a uniquely gifted personality.

That’s right. Although some self-help psychology books might have you to believe that your personality characteristics are causing your anxiety disorder, they can be a source of tremendous potential to achieve great things.

Many people who suffer from anxiety and panic have extraordinary imaginations.

They are usually highly creative, emotionally sensitive, analytical people. They often possess high ideals along with the driving motivation to achieve them.

These personality characteristics are powerful tools if you use them right. Many famous and talented people have suffered from anxiety disorders.

Consider Charles Darwin, the famous scientist whose theory of natural selection is central to modern evolutionary theory.

His panic attacks were so frequent and severe that he thought he suffered from a life-threatening illness.

On his Beagle voyage of 1831, he records in his notebooks having all of the symptoms we know to be panic such as blurry vision, tingling sensations in his hands and feet, feeling faint, chest pain, and a sense of impending doom.

Oscar-award winning actress, Kim Basinger, not only suffered from panic disorder, but was housebound with agoraphobia for a time.

In Panic, an HBO American Undercover documentary, she describes her agoraphobia saying “I stayed in my house and literally cried every day. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know how to define it.”

After retiring from the NFL, football Hall-of-Famer, Earl Campbell, had a panic attack one day while waiting at a stoplight. He didn’t know what it was and was afraid to tell anyone. That same night, another panic attack awoke him from his sleep and he was rushed to the hospital. After hiding in his bedroom for a month, he was diagnosed with panic disorder.

Other high-achieving people who suffered from anxiety or panic include scientist Sir Isaac Newton; painter Edvard Munch; psychologist Sigmund Freud; philosopher John Stuart Mill; poet W.B. Yeats; author John Steinbeck; singers Aretha Franklin, Sheryl Crow, and Barbara Streisand; model Naomi Campbell; actors Sir Lawrence Oliver, James Garner, John Candy, Winona Ryder, and Sally Field; and “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schultz. The list goes on and on.

All of these people suffered from problems with anxiety a panic, and all of these people had a lot going for them.

The reason so many talented people suffer from anxiety and panic is that the anxious personality is just the shadowy underside of some powerful personality traits.

There are two sides to every coin. Most strengths have a corresponding weakness. A blessing can come in the disguise of a curse.

Recovering from an anxiety disorder like agoraphobia is not about changing who you are or correcting a dysfunctional personality.

Instead, it is teaching you how powerful your personality really is, and how to use that power to create positive results in your life instead of frightening yourself into having panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms.

Each personality trait that is commonly shared by anxiety sufferers can be used one of two ways. It can either be used against you to contribute to anxiety and panic or be used to work to your advantage.

You might think of the anxious personality like a pack of dynamite. Dynamite can be a dangerous weapon or a powerful tool, depending on how it is used. It can be a dangerous explosive if you use it to blow up your house.

However, dynamite becomes a powerful tool when used to blow through mountains, rocks, and other obstacles to make new roads possible. Such is the personality behind anxiety and panic.

The same personality traits that stimulate panic attacks can also help you achieve great things.

The secret to recovering from an anxiety disorder like agoraphobia is to quit using your dynamite personality to blow yourself up, and, instead, use it to blow away obstacles from your path in life.

If you do this, you will not only recover from your agoraphobia, but will become a more powerful, and more effective person than ever before.


power of imagination

Using Your Imagination’s Creative Power

Most of us with anxiety and agoraphobia have vivid imaginations and high levels of creativity. Our minds can conjure up such dreadful images and visualize them so graphically and so powerfully that we feel anxiety symptoms as a result.

Sometimes anxiety and panic attacks are just the results of our mind picturing a negative scenario so clearly that it almost seems real. What you see in your mind has a powerful effect on your thoughts and behaviour.

That’s because your mind’s eye does not always distinguish between what is imagined and what is real. For better of for worse, when you imagine something, your mind often responds as if it has really happened.

When I had panic disorder and agoraphobia, I could have a panic attack just from trying to picture myself sitting in a class at school.

When I so much as thought about being trapped sitting at a desk in a room full of people I could imagine it so clearly that I would start to hyperventilate and my heart would speed up. That’s how powerful the imagination can be.

My mind really went wild creating scary images when I tried to sleep. The images my mind created are so horrible that it is hard to even share them.

For example, I imagined that I was a murderer and that I crept through my neighbourhood at night and stabbed a little girl in her sleep.

The image of this was so real in my mind that I felt a sick guilty, feeling in my stomach for a while, almost as if I had really committed this horrible act.

If you have an anxiety disorder like, for instance, agoraphobia, you have a powerful mind. I know that because it takes a powerful mind to create the thoughts and images that cause anxiety and panic.

However, once you are aware of this power, it is up to you how to use it. You can use your imaginative and creative powers to work for you or against you.

You can choose to picture things that scare you or things that bring you a sense of peace. What you decide to see in your mind will make a lot of difference in the emotions that you feel.

To get over agoraphobia, it’s important to learn to use your imagination and creativity in a new way.

You can relax yourself by picturing yourself in a peaceful, stress-free environment, like at the beach or in a secluded forest in the woods.

You can recondition your mind by imagining yourself returning to the places in which you’ve had panic attacks with a sense of calm. You can inspire yourself by confidently achieving goals that have caused you anxiety in the past.

You have the power to imagine new solutions to problems, invent new ways of doing things, and forge new paths in your life.

The creative powers of your imagination are a force to be reckoned with. Their current will either flow in a positive direction and contribute to peace of mind, or flow in a negative direction and contribute to anxiety and fear.

Harnessing this flow of creative energy and using it to work in your favour can change your life.

When your flow of mental creativity goes in a positive direction instead of a negative one, you can use it as a powerful tool to achieve your life’s goals instead of using it to feed your anxiety and fear.


perfectionism

The Positive Side of Perfectionism

Many people with agoraphobia and nearly all highly anxious people are perfectionists.

In one way or another, we set unrealistic expectations and try to live up to them. Since we can never be perfect, we get down on ourselves if we don’t achieve our unrealistic ideals. In some cases, if we don’t think we can be perfect at something we get so nervous about the possibility of failing that we don’t even try.

I was already a perfectionist when I played basketball in junior high. Though I was good enough to make the starting team at a large school, I was never good enough for myself. I played as if I expected myself to never miss a shot.  I played like a superstar in the first few minutes of many games, often scoring the first two or three baskets for my team.

However, missing just one shot caused so much anxiety that I would freeze up and quit trying to score altogether. I just couldn’t tolerate the anxiety that came from not being perfect.

I felt like when I missed a shot I was letting my team down, letting my coach down, letting my parents, down, and letting myself down. Inevitably, I would miss a shot early in the game and quit shooting. It would usually be the third or fourth quarter when I dared to shoot and risk imperfection again.

Many people with anxiety disorders like agoraphobia live life the same way I played basketball. We expect ourselves to be absolutely perfect. Then if we aren’t perfect at something we get anxious, freeze up, and quit trying. We avoid imperfection at all costs.

All of us are not perfectionists about the same things. Some of us might need everything to go perfectly according to schedule. Some of us may need to have the perfect diet.

Some of us may need everything to go as planned at our job. Some of us may need our house to be perfectly clean. Some of us may need the perfect spouse. Whatever the object of perfection is, we obsess over something.

To recover from perfectionism we must get comfortable with the fact that nobody is perfect in life. Everyone is going to miss some shots, so to speak. Part of reducing our anxiety levels comes with giving ourselves room to mess up and becoming more patient with ourselves.

However, this doesn’t have to mean lowering our standards. The positive side of perfectionism is that perfectionists hold high standards and expect positive things to happen.

These are good characteristics shared by most successful people. In the absence of perfectionism, high standards and positive expectations can be strong motivating factors in your life and don’t have to cause anxiety.

To recover from an anxiety disorder like agoraphobia, it’s important to learn the difference between having positive expectations and being a perfectionist: Perfectionists let their emotions ride on the outcomes of their efforts. People who just have positive expectations find satisfaction in the process.

The harmful mistake that perfectionists make is investing their emotions in something they can’t control.

Since we can never exert absolute control over the outcome of a situation, letting our emotions ride too heavily on outcomes is the recipe for worry and anxiety. 

People with positive expectations find satisfaction in the process of trying to achieve their goals, regardless of the outcome.

Their emotions are invested in something they can control, their own effort. They are more likely to be at peace. Whether they succeed or fail at something, they are satisfied with knowing they gave their best.

When we learn to hold positive expectations instead of being perfectionists, our high ideals become a powerful motivational force, rather than an anxiety-producing trap.

Psychologist Responds To Concerns Of A 16-Year-Old With Severe Anxiety Issues After Smoking Marijuana

This is a plea for help from a 16-year-old teen who is struggling with anxiety issues, followed by a response from a psychologist who happened to come across their message.


RE: Mild Panic Disorder…I Need Help ASAP?

I’m 16 years old. I’ve struggled with anxiety for years, but over the past few weeks I’ve been showing symptoms of panic disorder.

It all started when I smoked a great amount of marijuana in mid-August. I would like you to know that it was a HORROR experience and I never plan to try it again.

It was only my 3rd time and I had far too much. I had a full-blown panic attack, mainly because I was in a state where I couldn’t control my thoughts.

I kept seeing myself jumping from the 2nd story of the apartment I was in, and breaking my neck, or saying something totally uncalled for and inappropriate.

And I knew it was a possibility because I kept thinking “You don’t know reality from dream right now. Whatever you are thinking may or may not be real”.

So any horrible thought that ran through my head could have been real and I wouldn’t have even known it.

I was pacing around and my palms were sweating. I kept begging for someone to take me to the mental hospital where I’d be safe.

All I wanted was to go to sleep, and I eventually did, but it was difficult. When I woke up I felt better, but the unreality was still vaguely there, and it has lingered ever since.

I’ve been noticing my palms sweating quite often. I’ve imagined saying or doing something inappropriate, just like before, except I have full control now, but lately I’ve been having dizzy spells and the unreality hits me often. I also get hot flashes.

I’m too aware of my surroundings, and I wonder if everything is real. I get numbness all over and I feel disassociated from my body.

I have this feeling like I have to hold on or I’ll just fly up into space.

The main places I feel this in are the car (especially in the dark, like on the interstate, with the windows down), the bus when it’s crowded, and one of my classes where I’m in the back corner and the desks are too close together.

It hits me the worst on the bus, since it’s crowded and the people are loud. As a result, I have avoided riding the bus for the past two days.

Whenever I’m in an open space, like my house, I can deal with it much better.

Whenever I read up on panic disorder, the symptoms are described as “terrifying”. I would say that mine are, at most, disturbing. Therefore, I believe I have a mild version of it.

The worst feelings come and go within a few seconds. I just start breathing deeply, telling myself to “chill out” and reassuring myself that everything is okay, and real. It helps to think of my friends.

I have a hard time talking to people about it, because it seems like when I do, everything becomes unreal again, and I get nervous. I vaguely fear losing control.

I see a psychologist every 2 weeks, but since I can’t talk to him about it, I will probably just type him a paper to read.

Also, my mom cannot seem to find a psychiatrist. My dad is studying psychology and he knows a great deal about it. He said that it may be a symptom of my major depression.

Can anyone provide me a possible diagnosis, and let me know what I can do to make these disturbing feelings go away? I would like support. It’s the best anyone can do for me.

Thanks!


Watch this video which talks about the strange phobia of falling up into the sky, called casadastraphobia:


Psychologist Responds RE: Mild Panic Disorder…I Need Help ASAP?

Why can’t you talk to your psychologist about it? It sounds to me like this is exactly the sort of thing you should talk to him about.

He can help you either by helping you overcome your anxiety/panic symptoms (which generally respond very well to psychological treatment), or identify someone like a psychiatrist on your behalf.

As a psychologist, I’ll tell you to be wary of anyone who tries to diagnose you online based on one short description of the problem.

It does sound like you are experiencing anxiety, that this may be related to the traumatic experience you had in August, and that possibly this may be leading to feelings of ‘derealisation’.

Beyond that, it would be up to a professional to meet you and help you think through what’s been going on.

You mention that you already have a diagnosis of ‘major depression’; anxiety can be a part of depressive illness.

You wonder about ‘panic disorder’, which this does sound similar to; but then, the label isn’t really that important, and there are lots of similar conditions (post-traumatic stress syndrome, social anxiety, free-floating anxiety, etc.) which might also tick some of the boxes.

My strong advice would be to talk to your psychologist about all of this, and leave nothing out. If you’re finding that very hard to do, try printing out your question and taking it to him.

Speaking more generally, anxiety and panic can be treated through psychological interventions designed to address the reasons you’re feeling anxious in the first place; what these interventions are relies on those reasons, but often it can include talking about your anxiety; gentle exposure to whatever is triggering your anxiety; cognitive (‘mental’) exercises designed to deal with anxiety when it happens; and so on.

Sometimes, particularly if the problem is severe and may disrupt your life or cause danger to yourself or others, medication may be considered as an option.

This might be something specifically to address the anxiety – beta blockers are sometimes used to deal with specific situations, or tranquillizers can calm you down but may leave you feeling ‘fuzzy’ – or something to treat any underlying condition, such as depression, that your doctor thinks might be causing or exacerbating the anxiety.

You may also find that the anxiety fades ‘on its own’ as memories of your traumatic experience fade, and your mind puts the issue away under the file labelled ‘sorted’.

But I strongly urge you to talk to your psychologist, or failing that your family doctor, in a frank and honest way about your worries, and take any online diagnoses with a pinch of salt.


Watch this video which helps to explain what derealization is:


If you have any questions or comments, leave them below.  We’d love to hear from you!

Panic Disorder Symptoms – How Do You Know If You Have A Panic Disorder?

Panic attacks can be quite scary and their panic disorder symptoms may vary from person to person, but they generally involve an overwhelming feeling of horror and anxiety.

The severity of symptoms may also vary from one person to another with some sufferers only experiencing mild attacks, while others suffer such severe attacks that they become too afraid to leave their own home.

Panic Disorder Symptoms can include:

• Dizziness
• Racing heart
• Chest pain
• Feeling light headed
• Sweating
• Extreme fear
• Breathing difficulty
• Feeling hot or cold
• Shivering or shakiness
• Overwhelming sense of dread

Often when a person experiences a panic attack for the first time they have no idea what is happening to them and many will actually believe that they are having a heart attack.

The feelings are very scary and the fear of it happening again is often enough to bring on more attacks.

This can lead to a vicious cycle of fearing another attack and that fear then brings on another attack, which then leads to more fear of attacks.

This cycle can be extremely difficult to break and then leads to full panic disorder.

To be able to break free from this cycle you must be able to face that fear and control your fear of having a panic attack.

Many people will relate their attack to the situation or circumstance that they were in at the time of the attack.

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Because they relate their attack to that situation, then they become fearful of it happening again in that same situation and therefore will avoid that situation.

You can imagine if your panic attack happened while you were shopping at the supermarket, this can be a very difficult situation to avoid.

To overcome this fear of the situation you need to learn to handle your fear differently and learn to face that situation without fear.

The mind is a very powerful thing and unfortunately it is very powerful in a negative way in many cases.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘mind over matter’ well it is quite true and it is a matter of learning to change the way that your mind perceives fear and perceives particular situations so that you can live with them without having a panic attack.

Have any phobias or fears that you’ve confronted in the past and successfully moved on from?  Let us know in the comments below!