Agoraphobia stands out among other types of fear. By its essence, this phobia is a fear of open space, but in some cases, a person who suffers from agoraphobia may fear space itself and even the people around. This disease is most common among residents of large cities and it is especially sad because people in a big city you have to visit supermarkets, banks, squares, and parks.
Causes of Agoraphobia
Causes may be different. For example, many years ago, when a man was afraid to stay alone in the field or feared that predator might attack him. There is also a theory that the phobia is formed at the stage of the fetus development when there is a threat of the premature birth or abortion. There are many similar theories. Each case, according to doctors, is individual.
It is important to mention that a significant part of patients subconsciously can not determine themselves in the environment, i.e. they can not define their place and role in society.
In other cases, agoraphobia can be a consequence of certain nervous system disorders: social phobia, depression and so on. It often happens that people develop agoraphobia after receiving psychological and physical trauma. Such cases may include an act of terrorism, a fight with drunk people, a car accident.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
All the symptoms of this disease include the signs of a classic panic attack:
- increased sweating;
- increased heartbeat;
- problems with memory, hearing loss, incoherent speech;
- stomach upset;
- nausea with dizziness;
- breathing difficulties.
Also, the symptoms of agoraphobia may include the specific intrusive thoughts which the person is not able to get rid of their own. He begins to look for ways out of the situation, and later – and he does avoid open space. The problem is that the person has to visit many institutions somehow. Such a form of agoraphobia does not lead to any serious physical abnormalities, although it makes life more difficult.
However, a severe form of this disease is another case. An exaggerated sense of fear not only oppresses man, it devours him inside. It is not like the feeling of discomfort that many feel being in an unfamiliar place. This condition causes severe physical reactions.
To make a diagnosis is rather complicated process since the disease may develop suddenly. Once the person feels uncomfortable in the crowd and does not give any importance to it. Then intrusive thoughts and physical discomfort appear but he does not link them. Watching the movie with the corresponding plot may cause them if the person is rather sensitive. Later, he begins to understand that an uncomfortable condition in the crowd becomes commonplace and lonely journeys become torments.
With a timely visit to the doctor, it is easy to diagnose agoraphobia. Otherwise, the disease will progress and poison the life of the person making its own correctives in his plans.
Doctors diagnose agoraphobia by symptoms that associated with panic. In particular, if the patient has more than 4 symptoms at the same time, it is believed that there is a panic attack provoked by agoraphobia.
These are the symptoms of a panic attack listed above, but other signs can be added:
- the chest pain;
- the feeling of derealization;
- alternation of fever and chills;
- internal shiver;
- dizziness, fainting;
- fear of death or loss of control over the body.
In order to get rid of the symptoms of agoraphobia, it is necessary to consult a doctor. In the case of severe agoraphobia, medication and psychotherapy will be assigned. The combination of two methods is rather an effective treatment. Medications include drugs for anxiety and antidepressants. Of course, medications can cause the side effects such as insomnia, sexual disharmony, nausea and headaches, drowsiness, loss of memory and even loss of coordination. Treatment usually begins with small doses. By the end of treatment, patients take fewer drugs.
The combination of medication and psychotherapy means to give good results but it is desirable to be monitored by a specialist, even after a significant improvement. The main thing to remember is that agoraphobia is likely to lead to other mental disorders, so treatment should be timely.
Psychotherapy is not a pill that is easy to help to relieve the symptoms but it allows you to understand the causes of the disease. Psychologists specifically affect the psycho-emotional sphere of a person that the patient becomes aware of his own illness from a different angle than before, and it is the shortest path to recovery.
Some psychologists may help the patient cope with agoraphobia on his own.
In more severe cases, hypnosis is used. It helps not only to identify the causes of agoraphobia but also to make the patient confident in his actions.
How to fight this fear at home
Some of the actions that can be done at home can also help in the treatment of agoraphobia. So the person calms down and takes control over the situation. Here are some exercises.
It is necessary to lie down on a comfortable couch and relax completely. You can listen to slow quiet songs. With eyes closed, imagine your apartment. Look at everything carefully. Move toward the door. Do everything very carefully, because the rapid, even mental, movement may again cause a panic. For a start, it is enough to come to the door. Then, it is necessary to gradually step over the threshold. It is necessary to monitor the condition. Noticing the slightest sign of discomfort, it is necessary to return to the starting point. Gradually, it is needed to make the mental walks longer.
Psychologists claim that every person has a “reference point” (the place where a person feels good and well), only in patients with agoraphobia, it is expressed much brighter. It is necessary to find it. It may be a certain lamp, door handle or favorite blanket, i.e. any object without which a person feels discomfort. It is necessary to move the object around the apartment in mind, and move oneself with it. First, the patient will feel a kind of cognitive dissonance because its “reference point” is unstable, but later he will understand that he controls the situation.
The exact causes of agoraphobia are not always clear, so it is difficult to avoid them. Only a small number of the world’s population suffers from it – about 0.6%. At the age of 20, it is much more likely than at elder age. Too active lifestyle, loud music, stress can cause the development of agoraphobia. Of course, it is recommended to avoid dangerous places, especially at night, because the unpleasant meeting with bullies can result in a mental disorder which might be treated for months or even years. It is undesirable to watch movies which have the elements of horror or mystery. It is always better to spend time on self-education and rest.