Category: Generalized Anxiety Disorders
Published June 18, 2010 by:
Almost everyone has had or does presently have some type of phobia. Some
common phobias people have are of insects, spiders, riding in elevators
or escalators. Some people are afraid of airplanes and will avoid
flying, if at all possible. Approximately 19
million people in the US suffer with some kind of phobia. Phobias can
interfere with one's life; a common type of phobia that is restrictive
is agoraphobia. There are different types of agoraphobia; one is
agoraphobia with panic disorder and the other is agoraphobia without
panic disorder. This article won't go into detail about the two
different types, but generally, agoraphobia with panic disorder
generates sudden panic when a person is out of their comfort zone. What
Agoraphobia is characterized by intense
anxiety and fear of being in situations and places that are out of your
comfort zone. Many people with agoraphobia can leave their homes, but
feel anxious and panicky in places and situations away from home. Still,
other people with this disorder don't feel comfortable enough to even
step outside their homes at all. The feelings associated with
agoraphobia can be somewhat circular. Depression may stem from
loneliness and loneliness stems from being shut in the home or not being
able to get out and enjoy time spent with others.
A person with
agoraphobia rarely feels safe and secure in an environment they aren't
accustomed to. An individual with agoraphobia may be afraid of
elevators, bridges, driving, public transit, airplanes and in shopping
Some phobias start in childhood and are outgrown. Quite
often though, people can develop some form of anxiety disorder in their
teenage years which may grow into agoraphobia or some other disorder
during their lifetime. The progression of agoraphobia could start out
innocently enough during childhood. For instance, my daughter developed a
phobia of elevators when she was 9 years old. As she grew to adulthood
she became fearful of open and confined spaces. She not only was afraid
of elevators, but she is afraid of flying and she is afraid of being
alone in stores, supermarkets and shopping malls.
The causes of phobias like agoraphobia aren't exactly known. It is
believed that some phobias are related to some mental disorders. For
instance, a person with agoraphobia may have some type of personality
disorder, such as social anxiety disorder or avoidant personality disorder.
of the situations that cause anxiety can interfere greatly with your
activities of daily living. Avoidance just reinforces the anxiety
associated with agoraphobia. Constantly worrying about avoiding the
stress associated with any type of phobia can cause more stress.
you get anxious when you leave home, or you feel anxiety just thinking
about leaving your home, you could have agoraphobia. Even if you can
leave your home, but you feel anxious getting out into traffic, in
grocery stores or you are fearful of elevators or any public place, you
could have agoraphobia.When should you see a doctor or therapist?
and other phobias can control every aspect of your life. If your fears
are taking over your life, you should get help. Many doctors and
therapists believe it is best to face your fear; however it is important
to do it in steps. For instance, your therapist may suggest that you
let yourself experience the fears associated with agoraphobia in your
mind first, before you actually do it. The therapist may suggest that
you to pay attention to your level of anxiety as you mentally face your
fears. You may, mentally, walk yourself through certain situations a
number of times and notice that your anxiety level decreases each time.
daughter conquered her fear of elevators the same way. She, mentally,
rode an elevator several times before actually doing it. When she
finally did take her first ride in over 30 years she was surprised that
she wasn't scared at all.
Author's note: I have never been diagnosed with
agoraphobia, but I do have a fear of driving outside of my comfort zone.
I am deathly afraid of driving in traffic, if I am not too familiar
with the area. I can drive in an approximate 20 mile radius. If I begin
to drive into an area where I am not familiar, I will panic. I am also
afraid of driving over bridges. I don't have to be driving. Just being a
passenger riding over a bridge can send me into a panic attack. The
worst panic attack of my life was when we were riding across the George
Washington Bridge in New York City.