Agoraphobia is a phobia of being in a place where you feel unsafe or trapped. People experience intense fear and feelings of panic accompanied by a strong urge to escape to a place they feel safe (most commonly home). Often the feared place is somewhere that it can be harder to get away from quickly such as a crowded shopping centre or a cinema seat far from a door.
Over time people suffering from agoraphobia may start to avoid more and more places. Unfortunately, this creates a vicious cycle - by avoiding feared places you never learn that the anxiety can be managed and so it gets stronger and the places continue to feel unsafe. This can mean that some people become severely limited by their condition, seldom leaving the house at all or only doing so with a trusted person.
Treatment for agoraphobia includes:
- Learning how to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety.
- An ‘exposure programme’ whereby you increase the number of places you go to step by step.
- Learning to challenge the negative “predictions” you are making, e.g. something awful is going to happen, when you feel unsafe.
Like many psychological difficulties, the underlying causes are not always straightforward. As such, it might be helpful to talk to a professional to figure out what is going on and why you are feeling unsafe. If you feel like this is the case you may benefit from talking to a counsellor or other mental health professional.
On the right hand side there are links to resources that can help.