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Agoraphobia is anxiety and/or fear brought about by actual or anticipation of being in two of 5 types of public places. These places include public transportation, being in an open space, being in a closed space, being in line or a crowd, or being outside of the home alone. The fear arises from concern about displaying panic, or other distressing symptoms in public and being unable to exit the situation or receive assistance.
What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
The anxiety and/or fear experienced with the situation are abnormally high for the actual risk of danger. This often leads those with agoraphobia to not leave their home alone or to avoid these situations completely. Agoraphobia can significantly impact daily living by limiting social interactions, attendance at work or limiting acceptable workspaces and impacting running errands.
What causes agoraphobia?
There are several factors that may contribute to the development of agoraphobia including comorbidity, genetics and stressful experiences. Risk factors include having a panic disorder or other phobias, responding to panic attacks with avoidance and extreme fear, stressful experiences, being especially nervous, and being related to someone with the condition.
When does agoraphobia develop?
Agoraphobia typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood (the mid-20s), and can, unfortunately, become more severe over time.
Who is typically affected by agoraphobia?
Women are more likely to experience this disorder.
What other conditions commonly occur with agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is often seen in combination with panic disorder, since many may develop the condition after having a few panic attacks. However, these are distinct conditions which may have overlapping symptoms.
Agoraphobia itself can be a risk factor for other conditions, including depression, substance abuse and other anxiety and personality disorders.
What treatments are available for agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is typically treated with both psychotherapy (primarily cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication. Although fear can be a barrier to receiving treatment, therapists have several ways of getting in touch with those suffering from the disorder; including home visits, phone calls, and computer programs. Common medications prescribed include SSRIs like fluoxetine and sertraline and anti-anxiety medication like benzodiazepines.
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