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Agoraphobia can be defined as the fear of being in a situation from which one cannot escape or a situation that humiliates the person. This causes people to avoid situations that they anticipate to be humiliating. Such a situation makes the person feel trapped and helpless. Everyday situations like standing in a queue, getting into an elevator, using public transport etc. can trigger Agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia affects more women than men. It usually affects people under the age of 35, but can sometimes affect older people as well. Having a relative in the immediate family circle that suffers from this condition can also increase a person's risk of suffering from it as well. Additionally, the death of a parent or loved one or domestic abuse could also trigger such behavior. Depression and alcohol or drug abuse could also increase a person's risk of suffering from this psychological disorder.
This phobia usually develops after a person experiences panic attacks or goes through an extremely stressful experience. Some typical symptoms of Agoraphobia include:
- The fear of being alone
- Fear of crowded places
- Fear of being in locked places from where you cannot escape
- Fear of losing control of one's actions
- Inability to leave the house alone
- Being overly dependent on others
You may also experience symptoms similar to those of a panic attack, such as excessive sweating, breathing difficulty, dizziness, diarrhea and chest pain.
An in depth interview with a counselor or doctor can help diagnose such a condition. A physical examination can also help rule out other health conditions that could be triggering such a reaction. To be diagnosed with Agoraphobia the patient needs to present at least two of the below symptoms:
- Severe fear of public transportation
- Fear of being in an open space such as a parking lot or mall
- Fear of being in closed spaces such as movie halls or elevators
- Fear of standing in line
- Fear of being in a crowd
- Fear of leaving home alone
Treatment for such a condition involves medication and psychotherapy. Anti depressants and anti anxiety medications are commonly used to treat such disorders. There are a number of different types of such medication and you may need to experiment with them before finding one that suits you. Psychotherapy or talk therapy focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy that reduces anxiety symptoms and teaches patients how to deal with fears. If you fear leaving the home alone, you could take someone along with you or consult a therapist who can offer you telephonic advice, through email or meet you at your home.