It is a disorder in which a person avoids activities and familiar places, including some that the person used to enjoy before the problem began. This avoidance usually responds to panic attacks, which can be a disturbing and frightening experience; people are naturally motivated to do everything possible to avoid additional episodes. Unfortunately, it is precisely the efforts to protect themselves from the panic that create the biggest problem of agoraphobia.
A typical example would be a person who avoids various activities and ordinary situations, such as driving on the highway, supermarkets, theaters full of people, and churches.
The original meaning of the word comes from the Greek “fear of the market.” Today we understand that the problem is much broader than fear of one place or another and is the fear of anything or any place that you think could lead to a panic attack. But the fact that the ancient Greeks had a word for that tells us that this problem has existed for a long time.
Sometimes the “safe zone” is purely geographical, and it only implies the distance from your home, and if that is the case, the person gets worried when it seems that he is “too far from home.” An essential factor is that people with agoraphobia avoid any situation that appears to be a “trap,” as a place from which they can not leave. From this perspective, many harmless cases can resemble those of a trap, such as traffic jams, overcrowded churches, expressways, express trains, office meetings, haircuts, job interviews, conferences, etc.
- It is possible to avoid panic attacks much of the time, but the anxiety never goes away because you are always worried about the “next time.”
- Panic is the driving force behind this problem.
These are some of how people try to protect themselves. We call “safety behaviors,” referring to things that people instinctively perform to “protect” themselves from a panic attack.
Some of the most apparent safety behaviors include avoiding situations and running away from them when they feel anxious. But others disguise themselves as useful coping tools when they are more saboteurs. These include responses such as dependence on people, support objects (cell phones, water bottles, etc.), and the use of distraction. The safety behaviors foster the illusion that they protect you from danger but maintain their fear alive in time.
How to overcome Agoraphobia – Treatment
This problem will persist as long as you fear panic attacks and rely on safety behaviors. So the road to recovery begins with learning to handle such attacks.
Agoraphobia is a very treatable problem. However, many people find it very difficult to overcome. This is usually because they think that the way out is first to find a way to get rid of their fears and then re-enter situations they have been avoiding.
Depending on the treatment based on cognitive-behavioral methods, you can overcome agoraphobia with two key steps.
- First, learn how to respond to panic attacks very calmly.
- Secondly, as you defend yourself better with these skills, the practices are increasingly complex until you have recovered all the territory that you had previously lost. The best way is to face the fears, considered the most effective treatment available for panic and agoraphobia.