Agoraphobia relates to anxiety of being in a situation in which an individual may experience embarrassment or panic symptoms, and escape from the situation may be difficult or not possible. Some common examples of scenarios that cause heightened anxiety for people who experience agoraphobia include:
– Public transportation (e.g., planes, buses, trains, boats)
– Open spaces (e.g., large malls, parking lots)
– Waiting in a like
– Being in a crowd of people
– Going out of one’s home alone
– Enclosed places (e.g., movie theaters, classrooms, meeting rooms)
People who have agoraphobia often prefer having a companion with them when confronting their anxiety provoking situations. If symptoms continue to progress it is common for the feared situations to generalize to additional scenarios; this process can eventually cause individuals to become housebound.
Since the situational fears lead to high levels of distress or avoidant behaviors, the treatment targets both reducing the avoidance of, and the discomfort experienced when, facing their feared scenarios. This process is accomplished through systematic exposure work to the anxiety provoking situations and panic-like bodily symptoms. The goal with the exposures is to help the person gain confidence in handling anxiety-provoking situations, learn to not fear anxiety, and to fully engage in life opposed to having anxiety control one’s world. As individuals become more skilled at facing their fears, the intensity of the fears usually greatly declines. Overcoming one’s fears leads to massive opportunity for personal growth, success, and happiness.