Though it literally translates to “fear of the marketplace”, Agoraphobia is so much more than a mere fear of open spaces. While often confused with social phobias, agoraphobia is actual considered to be more of a panic disorder than a phobic or anxiety-related disorder. While specific phobias like arachnophobia -the fear of spiders- or claustrophobia -a fear of enclosed spaces- typically cause individuals to avoid only a few situations or objects that might be related to their phobia, agoraphobia is apart and very different.
While agoraphobe symptomology can be defined solely by a fear and avoidance of public places outside of the home, it typically reflects a more extensive form of avoidance. Panic attacks and other aversive symptoms appear when an agoraphobic individual feels like they have left a place of perceived safety, like the home, and fears of experiencing a panic attack in public often leave sufferers housebound in the majority of cases. While onset typically occurs around 18-35 years of age, this inability to leave the home can make diagnosis difficult. After experiencing a traumatic or panic related event – even something as minor as falling in the street or more intense like a panic attack in a public, outdoor setting- extreme awareness and sensitivity toward your heart-rate and other bodily functions will occur, and negative rumination and obsessive worrying may follow after the inciting event.
Suffering from a complex and debilitating panic disorder like agoraphobia can seem hopeless, but numerous effective treatments are available and with modern technology, taking that first step to recovery doesn’t even need you to leave the home.
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