person with agoraphobia peeking out window

Busting Myths About Agoraphobia

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about two percent of American adults live with agoraphobia. While this may seem like a small number, it means that if you know 100 adults, you likely know two people with this disorder. Despite this, several myths persist about agoraphobia.

Spreading awareness about this disorder can help people recognize the symptoms of agoraphobia and seek help. Furthermore, knowledge can help people in treatment feel comfortable speaking up about their experiences.

What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. Like with other phobias, people with agoraphobia experience extreme fear and panic when confronted with specific triggers. For agoraphobia, the triggers are places and situations in which the person may not be in control. For example, people with agoraphobia may feel panic in the following circumstances:

  • Wide-open spaces (such as parking lots, fields, etc.)
  • Enclosed spaces (including movie theaters and elevators)
  • Standing in line
  • On public transportation
  • In large crowds

When people with agoraphobia find themselves in these situations or places, they may have panic attacks with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, feeling of impending doom, and trembling. Patients may start limiting their exposure to these situations because they are afraid of having panic attacks.

Myth 1: All People with Agoraphobia Never Leave the House

If you have ever seen someone with agoraphobia in the movies or on television, the character probably never left the house and had shuttered windows. Worse yet, the person may have appeared unstable or even as a villain. While some people with extreme cases of agoraphobia are afraid of stepping foot outside the home, they are not villains.

Some people with agoraphobia do venture to where they feel in control and, thus, safe from panic attacks. For example, someone who is afraid of public transportation may drive or walk wherever they need to go. With early treatment, people with agoraphobia can learn healthy coping techniques and never progress to extreme agoraphobia.

Myth 2: You Can Never Heal From Agoraphobia

Unfortunately, many people believe that there is no way to treat agoraphobia. In fact, people with the disorder may avoid seeking treatment because they believe there is no way out of their situation. While therapy for agoraphobia can take plenty of hard work, healing is absolutely possible.

One of the most effective treatments for agoraphobia is exposure therapy. In this system, Georgia therapists slowly help patients expose themselves to their fears. Over time, patients learn that they are safe in these situations and the fear lessens. In some cases, patients need medication to get them through this therapy.

Myth 3: It’s Just an Excuse to Stay Home

Perhaps one of the most damaging myths about agoraphobia is that people with this disorder are just lazy. Unfortunately, some people continue to believe that the disorder is not real and that it’s just an elaborate excuse to stay away from others. This could not be further from the truth.

Agoraphobia is a real disorder that causes pain and anxiety in those it affects. People with the disorder experience physical symptoms when confronted with their fears. Furthermore, people with agoraphobia want to get better. After all, part of the diagnostic criteria for any mental health disorder is that symptoms keep patients from living their daily lives.

If you or someone you love experiences the symptoms of agoraphobia, know that you are not alone. While some people may misunderstand this disorder, the helpful professionals at LifeStance Health are ready to help. Counselors and therapists can help patients heal from this disorder and learn ways to explain it to their loved ones. Contact a Georgia therapy clinic near you today to book an appointment.

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