Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting approximately 18.1% of adults in the United States (ADAA, 2021). But there are many different types that fall into the category of anxiety disorders, one of them being Agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is defined as an anxiety disorder “in which one fears or avoids places or situations that may cause panic or bring on feelings of helplessness and embarrassment” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). In an attempt to keep those feelings at bay, people suffering from Agoraphobia may separate themselves or stay away from aspects of life that seem unfamiliar or overwhelming. While fears vary between each person, there are a few fears that are considered more “common”, including the fear of crowds, leaving home alone, enclosed spaces, the fear of wide open spaces, and public transportation. Being in one of these situations can cause one to feel very unsafe and panicked.
Anxiety disorders such as Agoraphobia can affect many aspects of life, as the extreme fear and worry can lead to avoiding more and more circumstances over time. It can also lead to physical symptoms similar to panic attacks, such as hyperventilation, chills, rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, and an upset stomach (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). These symptoms can occur when one enters a situation that induces fear or is outside of their usual routine.
Agoraphobia does not have a specific known cause, but one may have experienced a tragic or stressful life event, may have other extreme phobias, or have a relative with Agoraphobia before developing symptoms themselves. It also has been associated with panic disorder, a disorder that causes short yet intense attacks of fear for no particular reason. About a third of those with panic disorder develop Agoraphobia, however Agoraphobia can also occur on its own (Cleveland Clinic, 2021).
Approximately 1-2% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with Agoraphobia, and many others with symptoms have yet to be diagnosed (NIMH, 2021). But there are multiple different ways to treat it including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. These methods can assist in managing feelings and fears, changing perspective, and creating healthy and productive habits. Agoraphobia is a disorder that can be managed and/or overcome, and the first step in doing so is to reach out to a healthcare provider for assistance. At Cleveland Primecare we have providers who are ready to help you or a loved one in need.
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