Agoraphobia (patient information)

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Agoraphobia

Overview

What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

When to seek urgent medical care?

Diagnosis

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Agoraphobia?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

Prevention

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Editor-in-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S.,M.D. [1] Phone:617-632-7753; Associate Editor-In-Chief: Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan, M.B.B.S.

Synonyms and Keywords: Panic disorder with agoraphobia, Anxiety disorder- agoraphobia

Overview

  • Panic disorder with agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder in which there are repeated attacks of intense fear and anxiety, and a fear of being in places where escape might be difficult, or where help might not be available.
  • Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.

What are the symptoms of Agoraphobia?

  • Agoraphobia is considered to be present when places or situations are being avoided.
  • People with agoraphobia generally do not feel safe in public places. Their fear is worse when the place is crowded.
  • Symptoms of agoraphobia include:
  • Becoming housebound for prolonged periods of time
  • Dependence on others
  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of being in places where escape might be difficult
  • Fear of losing control in a public place
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feeling that the body is unreal
  • Feeling that the environment is unreal
  • Unusual temper or agitation

What causes Agoraphobia?

  • Agoraphobia sometimes occurs when a person has had a panic attack and begins to fear situations that might lead to another panic attack.

When to seek urgent medical care?

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of agoraphobia.

Diagnosis

  • People who first experience panic sometimes fear they have a serious illness, or are even dying. Often, people will go to an emergency room or other urgent care center because they think they are having a heart attack.
  • A physical examination and psychological evaluation can help diagnose panic disorder.
  • It is important to rule out any medical disorders, such as problems involving the heart, hormones, breathing, nervous system, and substance abuse. Which tests are done to rule out these conditions depends on the symptoms.

Treatment options

  • The goal of treatment is to help you feel and function better.
  • CBT involves 10 to 20 visits with a mental health professional over a number of weeks. CBT helps you change the thoughts that cause your condition. It may involve:
  • Gaining understanding and control of distorted feelings or views of stressful events or situations
  • Learning to recognize and replace panic-causing thoughts
  • Learning stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Systematic desensitization and exposure therapy, in which you are asked to relax, then imagine the things that cause the anxiety, working from the least fearful to the most fearful.
  • Gradually exposing the patient to the real-life situation that causes the fear has also helped some people overcome their fears.
  • A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, enough rest, and good nutrition can also help be helpful.

Where to find medical care for Agoraphobia?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Agoraphobia

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Most patients can get better with medications or behavioral therapy. However, without early and effective help, the disorder may become more difficult to treat.

Possible complications

  • Some people may abuse alcohol or other drugs while trying to self-medicate.
  • Some people may be unable to function at work or in social situations.
  • Some people may feel isolated, lonely, depressed, or suicidal.

Prevention

Early treatment of panic disorder can often prevent agoraphobia.

Source

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000923.htm


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