Although agoraphobia is often a term used to describe the fear of wide open spaces, it can also cover a number of other irrational fears, including the fear of leaving one’s home, being in a public place such as a shopping mall, or even travelling alone on public transport. Not surprisingly, such fears can soon become extremely debilitating, so what are the treatment options for agoraphobia?
The symptoms of agoraphobia commonly occur along with other panic and anxiety disorders and if left untreated, the disorder will continue for many years. Thankfully there are several treatment options for agoraphobia, so if you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of agoraphobia, it is very important to seek help as soon as possible.
What are the treatment options for agoraphobia?
Medication can be an important part of the treatment plan for agoraphobia. Antidepressants may be prescribed, even if you are not suffering from any symptoms of depression. This is because antidepressants change the chemistry inside the brain, but unfortunately they do not work straight away, so antidepressant medication is not an instant “fix” for the treatment of agoraphobia symptoms.
Tranquilisers may also be used to treat the symptoms of agoraphobia. Drugs typically prescribed include benzodiazepines as these are useful for relieving the symptoms of anxiety, but because they are known to be highly addictive, any treatment course of benzodiazepines will necessarily be very short.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a very useful treatment option for phobias such as agoraphobia and will normally be used in conjunction with medication. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps to change the way you think about your fears and anxieties. It can also help to teach you positive ways to deal with certain situations as well as recognise your behavioural response in such instances. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises are usually taught as a way of preventing a full-blown anxiety attack.
Learning to conquer a phobia such as agoraphobia takes time and to begin with, the patient may be exposed to their fear in very small doses—a technique known as “exposure therapy”. For example, you could be encouraged to venture outside for a short walk in the company of a trusted person or your therapist, which will enable you to practice your coping techniques in a safe environment. Over time, the level of exposure is increased and with the aid of relaxation therapies, the patient should eventually learn to conquer their fears and move forward with their life.
Hypnotherapy can be another useful treatment option for helping patients to overcome their agoraphobia. Hypnotherapy treatment from an experienced therapist helps the patient to change the negative thought patterns that lead to irrational fear and panic in trigger situations.
It is important to remember that whilst agoraphobia is an eminently treatable disorder, the sooner you seek help for your symptoms, the faster you can start enjoying normal life once again. You may also need to try several different treatment options for your agoraphobia before you find the right one for you, so if one treatment option doesn’t work, try not to despair as a different type of treatment will probably be more effective.