If you or a loved one is struggling with intense feelings of panic, anxiety, and fear every time you leave the house, enter a crowd, or go someplace new, you might have something called agoraphobia. This is a mental health disorder that requires specialized treatment. Below, you will learn more about what agoraphobia treatment looks like, if it’s right for you, and where you can find it.
What Is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. The way that anxiety presents itself with this particular disorder has to do with being in open, unsafe, unfamiliar, or inescapable environments. Typically, people with agoraphobia have a skewed or distorted sense of what is “unsafe.” For this reason, seeking professional agoraphobia treatment is important for them to maintain functionality in their daily lives.
In popular media, agoraphobia is often portrayed as a fear of leaving one’s own house. While this can be part of agoraphobia, there are a lot of other complex layers that go into having this disorder as well. In some cases, for example, agoraphobia develops in people who have a panic disorder. Though not everyone who has a panic disorder has agoraphobia, many people who have agoraphobia do experience feelings of panic.
According to the most recent and fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), someone must experience a fear of or have anxiety about at least two of the following to be diagnosed with agoraphobia:
- Being in open spaces
- Being in closed spaces
- Using public transportation
- Being in a crowd
- Going outside of familiar spaces (such as one’s home) alone
People with agoraphobia often avoid public places because they are so anxiety provoking. When they get into these situations, they feel as though they are in danger. Their first instinct may be to flee the environment, though they might not always be able to do so. This is especially true in closed spaces (like on a bus) or in certain circumstances (such as during a meeting at work).
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
When someone with agoraphobia encounters something that triggers their anxiety, it can manifest in numerous ways. These symptoms include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Tightness in chest
- Avoidance of certain places or activities
- Feelings of panic or panic attacks
- Feelings of anxiety
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As these symptoms show, agoraphobia can greatly interfere with somebody’s quality of life, making it challenging or nearly impossible to run errands, work, socialize, and more. This is why it’s so important to get agoraphobia treatment. With the right support in place, people with agoraphobia can begin to live life without as much fear.
What Does Agoraphobia Treatment Look Like?
The goal of agoraphobia treatment is to increase a patient’s ability to manage the stress, anxiety, and feelings of panic that come with leaving their “safe” environments. But treating agoraphobia isn’t as simple as it might sound. Rather, this mental health condition often requires intensive and specialized treatment in order for patients to begin to see a difference.
Many times, the most effective form of agoraphobia treatment involves inpatient mental health programming. An inpatient mental health program for adults can address various disorders, including anxiety disorders like agoraphobia.
Furthermore, co-occurring disorders can often develop as a result of untreated mental health conditions. These disorders, which can include substance use issues, need to be treated through dual diagnosis treatment. A dual diagnosis program can help people with agoraphobia safely detox from (as well as learn ways to avoid) alcohol, drugs, and other harmful substances that could make the panic worse.
Treatment for agoraphobia should always be individualized based on a patient’s medical and mental health history, current symptoms, and recovery goals. That said, there are some evidence-based services that are proven to help those who are struggling with this disorder. These include:
Medication Evaluation and Management
Often, one of the first services that patients receive in a mental health facility is the evaluation of their medications. During this process, a medical expert gathers information on any past and current medications taken by a patient.
After assessing the effectiveness of these medications against the patient’s current symptoms, the expert might recommend changing the dosage. Alternatively, they may add a different type of medication that can help a patient regulate the symptoms of agoraphobia.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for instance, can be extremely helpful in reducing the level of panic someone feels. Decreasing their overall anxiety allows them to apply the skills they learn during agoraphobia treatment to make it through challenging times.
Group and Family Therapy
Another important aspect of agoraphobia treatment involves working with others. Agoraphobia can often feel incredibly isolating. This is why speaking with others who understand the anxiety in group psychotherapy sessions can be eye-opening. In group agoraphobia therapy, patients are able to learn from one another and hold each other accountable to their own recovery goals.
Furthermore, we encourage family members and friends to participate in the learning process during treatment. Family members have the opportunity to work with their loved one and mental health professionals to learn more about agoraphobia through family counseling. This allows them to learn how to help manage the symptoms after treatment ends.
Partnering With an Agoraphobia Treatment Professional
One of the most vital parts of agoraphobia treatment is interacting directly with a mental health professional. In residential treatment, patients work one-on-one with a mental health professional to work through their intense, daily feelings of panic, anxiety, and fear.
These sessions might involve talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, or even learning relaxation techniques. Afterward, patients can use what they learned outside of therapy to better manage their symptoms of agoraphobia. Developing all of these skills through evidence-based therapies is the only way to ensure long-term success with recovery from anxiety and panic disorders, or any other mental health concerns.
Where Can You Get Agoraphobia Treatment?
It can be overwhelming to think about going to a mental health facility to get agoraphobia treatment. However, treatment facilities like the Blackberry Center in St. Cloud, FL are prepared to give each patient the individualized care that they need to recover from their most challenging symptoms.
In addition to all of the services described above, we offer recreational therapy, discharge planning, and more. Our programming is designed to make your transition back into the world as least stressful as possible.
Do you have more questions about agoraphobia treatment? If so, call (813) 908-4199. If you want to reach out but you aren’t quite ready to make that first call, consider submitting a confidential contact form with your questions and more.
No matter how you choose to begin your journey toward a life without anxiety, know that The Blackberry Center is an environment you can trust. We will help you get back to where you want to be in your life.