Treatment Options For Agoraphobia

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Treatment Options For Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a condition that causes people to fear leaving their home. People who suffer from agoraphobia suffer from anxiety. They will feel great discomfort in different types of environments. People with agoraphobia suffer from anxiety, and live in fear each day of their lives.

People who are affected by agoraphobia are fearful of many different kinds of environments and situations. Most people with agoraphobia are fearful of leaving their homes. Many affected people are able to leave for short amounts of time despite the fear, but most stay confined to their homes. Many people with agoraphobia will spend months or even years never leaving their house or property line.

Common Situations That Trigger People With Agoraphobia

There are several different situations that can trigger a person with agoraphobia to fall into distress. These situations often involve a scenario where there is a perceived threat. Whether the threat is real or imagined, the risk of being in such a situation is often exaggerated in the mind of someone with agoraphobia.

Most situations that cause an affected person to react are relatively harmless. The real risk of the triggering environments and situations are minimal. There is a low likelihood of danger, threat or harm occurring in the actual environment.

Common places and situations that can trigger agoraphobia include:

  • Public transit (buses, trains, planes, taxis, etc.)
  • Wide open spaces
  • Public places
  • Enclosed spaces
  • Attending appointments
  • Driving or riding in cars
  • Being in spaces where there is only one or few exits
  • Crowded spaces
  • Unfamiliar situations or settings

Consequences of Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia cause a person to live their life in fear. They are fearful of most places, which takes a toll on their quality of life. As a result, many areas of an affected person’s life is significantly affected.

Consequences of agoraphobia include:

  • Exceptional difficulty running errands or keeping up with responsibilities
  • Trouble with socializing or making friends
  • Struggling to maintain friendships and relationships with family
  • Lack of social interaction that can cause depression and paranoia
  • Difficulty of taking care of their mental, physical and medical needs
  • Pursuing goals with regard to their education or career
  • Difficulty enjoying social activities with others
  • Difficulty engaging in enjoyable activities

Agoraphobia can also occur in conjunction with other mental health conditions. Conditions that are often seen with agoraphobia include:

It is tough to work through treatment for agoraphobia. Agoraphobia treatment is challenging. It is challenging because an affected person is encouraged to face their fears. Treatment for agoraphobia consists of having an affected person step out of their comfort zone. It is a space to safely face fears and insecurities. This helps them to learn how to cope with their anxieties and panic in unfamiliar places.

Commitment to therapy for agoraphobia can result in recovery. It takes time and commitment to change. It also takes a lot of patience and forgiveness for one’s own anxieties and challenges.

There is no ultimate cure for agoraphobia. Therapy can be effective in managing symptoms. With proper therapy, symptoms can be managed and reduced considerably. It is possible to have the condition in remission, but being 100 percent cured is not realistic.

The following are forms of therapy often used in the treatment of agoraphobia:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy. It is commonly used in the treatment of agoraphobia. CBT teaches an affected person how to challenge their fears. It adopts the philosophy that the trigger is not what causes the fear. What causes the fear are your thoughts in response to the trigger.

Considering this philosophy, CBT targets the affected person’s immediate thoughts in reaction to a trigger. It helps the affected person learn how to challenge their fearful thoughts. In challenging anxious thoughts, they become less intense. This in turn, makes the fear response less intense. CBT has been found to be highly effective for agoraphobia. It is also an effective form of treatment for other types of anxiety disorders.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a form of therapy that helps an affected person take baby steps in recovery. It is targeted toward lessening the intensity of the fear response to triggers.

Exposure therapy works toward facing one trigger at a time. As the affected person faces the trigger, the fear response is less intense. The goal is to desensitize the fear response. This reduces the feelings of anxiety and distress when facing the trigger in real life.

Psychiatric medication may also be recommended in some cases of agoraphobia. In more severe or chronic cases, medication can help ease symptoms while working on coping skills. It is important to note that treatment can only be effective with therapy in the long term. Medication alone is not enough to treat agoraphobia.

If psychiatric medication is recommended, the affected person will be asked to meet with either:

  • a psychiatrist, or
  • a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

The prescribing professional will coordinate care with the affect person’s therapist. The affected person, therapist and prescribing professional will work together to treat the condition.


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