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The person, whose life has nothing to do with mental illness, could hardly believe that some fears can make people indefensible. One of these fears is agoraphobia-an anxiety disorder characterized by the avoidance of open spaces. With this disease, people can not leave the house for many years, because everything that is outside seems unsafe to them. Often the fear of open spaces is manifested in conjunction with panic disorder. Most often, the disorder affects people from 20 to 30 years old and the vast majority of them are women.
How Does Agoraphobia Manifest Itself?
At the first attack of agoraphobia, a person feels a terrible, inexplicable fear. In the future, the patient is afraid to experience the same feelings again. So, such a person is afraid not only of open spaces, but also of a possible recurrence of the attack. Over time, the patient begins to experience the fear in any public places, which gradually becomes the cause of his complete isolation. Agoraphobia should not be confused with the fear of society, because a person isolates himself not from people, but from “dangerous” places. In addition, the risk of anxiety in crowded places is lower than in areas where the patient is alone.
At the initial stage of development of the disease, people with agoraphobia try to avoid certain places or avoid getting into specific situations. For example, they do not go to the shops alone, because the presence of a person gives them confidence. They often drink alcohol or take sedatives before leaving the house. All this is assessed by them as a confrontation with the threat. Then, patients absolutely refuse to leave the house. Patients suffering from fear of open spaces often lose their jobs, stop communicating with friends, radically change the way of life. Such people can stay “within four walls” for years. Much of this isolation is due to physiological symptoms. For example, the patient may be afraid to leave the house because of frequent urination or because of sudden diarrhea. At the time of the attack, the head may become dizzy, the heartbeat becomes frequent, the ringing in the ears begins. Increased sweating, feeling of lack of air are also symptoms of agoraphobia. The level of intensity and bouts of illness may be different, but each case is a heavy, painful feeling, which the patient often cannot explain reasonably. Sometimes persons suffering from agoraphobia become disoriented in space when leaving the house. They do not understand where they are and what is happening to them. The surrounding objects begin to seem unreal. The patient is completely captured by the feeling that right now there will be an event that poses a threat to life.
What Leads to the Development of Agoraphobia?
There can be several reasons for the development of this disorder:
- Panic attack. There is an opinion that agoraphobia is caused by constantly repeated panic attacks, which have a negative impact on the emotional and volitional sphere. A person becomes afraid to leave the house and appear in public places, which subsequently leads to isolation.
- Stress and mental trauma. Prolonged emotional stress may become the cause of agoraphobia. Frequent conflicts, constant experiences and prolonged depression can lead to depletion of the nervous system and form the basis for the development of the fear of open spaces. Also, the cause of fears can be an unexpected traumatic event (fire, car accident, death of a loved one).
- Genetic predisposition. Sometimes agoraphobia is transmitted to the child from the parents. In this case, children may suffer from agoraphobia even if parents suffer from any other neurotic disorder.
Methods of Treatment
Agoraphobia is a serious disease, which should be treated at the first signs of it. It is often accompanied by severe depression, causing a person suicidal thoughts. In addition, along with this disease, new disorders may develop, for example, fear of pollution or fear of getting of toxic substances into the body. Treatment of the disease should be comprehensive. It usually involves medication and psychotherapy. The work of a psychotherapist involves the following methods:
- behavioral therapy;
- cognitive psychotherapy;
- technique of paradoxical intention.
In order to avoid the irrational fear of open spaces, treatment with medications should last for another three to six months after the improvement of the patient’s condition. In this case, the end of the course of medication does not mean the abolition of psychotherapy. Even with a significant improvement in the condition, you should continue to visit a psychotherapist periodically.
The life of a person, haunted by the fear of open spaces is extremely difficult. Such a person could only feel comfortable in places that seem safe to him. Permanent stay at home does not allow living full life, so it is very important to seek professional help in time.