Agoraphobia is usually simply described as a “fear of open spaces” it is however, much, much more complicated than this. Ranging in levels of severity in different people, Agoraphobia tends to affect people in different situations such as being alone, being inside or outside the home, in a crowd of people, or travelling on public transport.
People with agoraphobia will tend to experience a change in behaviour as they begin to avoid situations which cause them anxiety. This may then lead to a restriction in the living of day to day life.
There are a number of different symptoms which will vary in intensity. Some sufferers will find it impossible to leave the house, whereas others may be able to travel short distances or manage in small social situations. Symptoms include:
- Rapid heart beat
- Rapid breathing
- Butterflies/upset stomach
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Feeling faint
- Obsessive and/or depressive behaviour
- Avoidance of situations
- Becoming housebound
- Needing assistance/company
- Avoiding travelling
- Avoiding physical activity
On top of these symptoms there are a variety of psychological symptoms such as feeling depressed, having low self-esteem and a general anxious feelings or feelings of dread.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, particularly if they begin to interfere with your every day life, then you should see your GP as soon as you can.
If your doctor thinks that you need it, then they may refer you to a psychiatrist who will be able to examine your background in depth and be able to determine whether you have agoraphobia or whether you are suffering from another mental health condition and to try and find suitable treatment.
Treatments for agoraphobia include psychological therapy which is used to challenge the processes of negative thoughts and behaviour and medication which will be used in connection with panic disorders. The most common forms of medication or SSRI antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants and beta-blockers.