What Is Agoraphobia?
The term means fear of open spaces. However, as a clinical entity, the fear includes public places, crowds, shops, cinemas, banks, buses etc. especially when the patient is by himself. This eventually leads to the fear of leaving home, becoming house bound and even being alone. The fear is related to the intense sense of insecurity that something may happen and the patient finds himself helpless or humiliated with no escape.
What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
Physical symptoms of agoraphobia
Sufferers will usually only experience the symptoms when they find themselves in a situation or environment that causes them anxiety. Physical symptoms are rare because most people with agoraphobia avoid situations that they believe will trigger panic. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Accelerated heart beat.
- Rapid and shallow breathing (hyperventilating).
- Feeling hot, flushing.
- Stomach upset.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Breaking out in a sweat.
- Feeling light headed, as if one were about to faint.
- Ringing in the ears.
Psychological symptoms of agoraphobia
These symptoms are sometimes related to the physical symptoms:
- Fear that people will notice a panic attack, causing humiliation and embarrassment.
- Fear that during a panic attack their heart might stop, or they won’t be able to breathe, and may die.
- Fear that the sufferer himself/herself is going crazy.
The following psychological symptoms are also possible:
- Low self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Feeling a loss of control.
- General feeling of dread and anxiety.
- Thinking that without the help of others the sufferer himself/herself would never be able to function or survive.
- Dread of being left alone.
Behavioral symptoms of agoraphobia
- Avoidance – avoiding environments and situations that may trigger anxiety. In some cases this may be mild, where the sufferer avoids going in a crowded train. In extreme cases the person finds it very hard to leave the house.
- Reassurance – the sufferer needs to be reassured by another person. Going out to the shops may only be possible if a friend comes along too. In extreme cases the sufferer finds being alone unbearable.
- Safety behavior – needing to have or to take something in order to confront situations or places that trigger anxiety. Some sufferers have to have an alcoholic drink before going into a crowded place, while others cannot go outside unless they are sure they have their tablets with them.
- Escape – leaving a stressful place or situation straight away and going back home.
What are the causes of agoraphobia?
Experts are not completely sure what the exact causes of agoraphobia are. Most believe that they are a result of physical and/or psychological factors.