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Agoraphobia - The Silent Terror

Some General Information About Agoraphobia, its Causes and Treatments 

Phobias are more than just ordinary fears. They are irrational, deeply entrenched, and prompted by a spectrum of causes, ranging from spiders, cockroaches and snakes, to a fear of heights, places and even dirt and germs.  People are often afraid of going to hospitals, graveyards, and also about visiting the dentist. Phobias strike unexpectedly and for no obvious reason - each one has its own special name.  There are phobias that  even sound ludicrous - that is, until we come to the realization that someone known to us happens to be a victim. Take for example agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces.  


Sometimes, when people have been suffering extreme anxiety over extended periods, they may all of a sudden find themselves in the grip of an inexplicable occurrence. Starting unexpectedly with some of the psychosomatic symptoms they have been experiencing on account of their anxiety, it may be accompanied by rapid, shallow breathing, excessive perspiration, an accelerated heartbeat and even stomach cramps.  There is a general feeling of doom and gloom, and as they start to feel dizzy, confusion can set in and they feel far removed from reality.  They are afraid of what is happening, thinking they are on the verge of a heart-attack, or even death. Miraculously, this will pass.  They get through the episode, alive, but badly shaken.  They may not know that what they just experienced is a panic or anxiety attack, but the memory lingers, deep in the recesses of their brains.   


What then happens is that characteristics of a place where the panic attack occurred, for example, certain smells, sounds or sights, can subsequently trigger a memory, and set in motion the similar chain of reactions leading again to a panic attack. These episodes may occur, time and again, in different surroundings such as supermarket lines, in church, while driving, or even in the person's own backyard.  Fearing a repetition, the individuals avoid going there again, or even to places that remind them of those settings.  They feel safest at home, and develop a fear of going outside their houses. 


In my humble and non-expert opinion, while agoraphobia is said to be a fear of open spaces, it probably begins because the sufferers feel they are safest at home, and seldom go out.  When they do leave the house after a long time, they are likely to feeling extraordinary levels of anxiety, leading to panic attacks.  This makes them very afraid of leaving the safety of their homes, probably why agoraphobia has been described as a fear of open spaces.

In the final analysis, while sufferers may be desperate to avoid the occasions to go outdoors, it would be to their advantage to try and face their fears head-on. They can rule out the possibility of any serious underlying medical condition with a visit to the family doctor.  Once they have been reassured that there is no serious medical cause for their condition, with purpose and fortitude they can begin to fight their fear of the outdoors, little by little.  

Agoraphobia is not a disease.  It can be treated with medication to lessen the anxiety, or through some form of cognitive behavioral therapy, under the supervision of an expert.  This way the sufferers learn to recognize their fears for what they actually are, and to prevent the resulting emotions from evoking a self destructive cycle of events within their life.  Facing their fear of the outdoors and realizing that they can be as safe outdoors as they are indoors, can be the starting point to a full recovery.  





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we are a community of people struggling with mental health issues, you are not alone!


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We are a community of people struggling with mental health issues, you are not alone!