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Take On Agoraphobia With Psychotherapy

Mar 1, 2008
Having a phobia of walking outside your own home and being in a wide open public space can be debilitating and wreck any chance of a normal happy life. Even the thought of this situation can send a sufferer into a terrible panic attack with feelings of anxiety that could soon develop into depression. One of the best things a sufferer can do is to have psychotherapy and give themselves a shot at living again.

The term 'agoraphobia' is literally a fear of open spaces and comes from the Greek words meaning "fear of the marketplace". The phobia is most common in women and occurs in a high number of people aged 25-35. Agoraphobia can also apply to people who find it difficult to be in crowds or struggle with travelling on their own. It's usual for people to continue with their day-to-day lives when suffering with agoraphobia but it makes for an uncomfortable existence. Others can be completely housebound by it.

The most common symptom of agoraphobia is a panic attack. These attacks can take the form of shaking, sweating, palpitations and chest pain. The sufferer can also develop a headache from tension and have tingling sensations around the body. They will also feel a sense of terror and seek to flee from the situation. If this applies to you when in a public space or social situation, you may well be suffering with agoraphobia.

As with many phobias, the causes are believed to be chemical and also a result of physical and environmental factors. An imbalance in our chemical make-up can disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain that may bring about attacks. Also, emotional factors from past experiences can affect the way we perceive certain situations and therefore we try to avoid placing ourselves in a similar situation again. When these factors cause us to avoid situations for fear of them, it can impair our social, professional and personal life and we should seek help.

Your GP should make a diagnosis of your condition and then recommend a course of treatment. Many doctors choose to treat the condition with medications such as antidepressants, serotonin inhibitors or tranquilizers but psychotherapy is now the non-drug way of overcoming the phobia and your GP can refer you to a trained psychotherapist.

Psychotherapy will use what is known as cognitive behavioural therapy to help agoraphobics overcome their fear. Many psychotherapists use a technique called 'desensitisation'. They will slowly expose a patient to the situations that cause them anxiety to purposely trigger their fear. When this happens, the psychotherapist will help calm the patient with breathing exercises and relaxation methods and gradually the patient will learn to cope. By breaking the connection the mind makes with the feared situation and the feelings associated with it, the phobia can ease and eventually disappear altogether.

Another technique a psychotherapist may employ is a psychodynamic therapy that tackles the underlying causes of the phobia. By discussing any emotional conflicts a sufferer has, the patient can learn to overcome their fear. Often the causes of agoraphobia are not apparent until the patient starts to talk about them.

Psychotherapy has a high success rate with agoraphobics and by working with a trained psychotherapist you can begin to understand why you are suffering with agoraphobia and start to develop coping strategies to overcome it. Before long you could be enjoying a happy and active social life again.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is an expert on therapy and alternative medicine. He helps people that are looking for psychotherapy find a psychotherapist near them.
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