Do You Know the Mental and Physical Symptoms of Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia

What do muscle tension, sleep problems, fatigue, and irritability have in common? They’re all physical signs of agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that will affect an estimated 1.3% of the population at some point during their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Because these physical symptoms are commonly seen in other mental health issues as well as physical conditions, they often go undetected as part of agoraphobia. Knowing all the symptoms of agoraphobia can be the key to getting this anxiety disorder under control.

WHAT IS AGORAPHOBIA?

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that involves extreme fear or anxiousness about being in open spaces, enclosed areas, or any place where you may feel trapped. Panic can arise in places most people find completely safe, such as the grocery store, a park, or a coffee shop. People with this condition may experience intense, irrational panic in these situations. When the anticipation of the fear becomes so great, they eventually choose to stay at home rather than risk finding themselves in a stress-inducing environment.

One of the key characteristics of agoraphobia lies in the fact that the fear is out of proportion to the actual threat. This greatly interferes with daily living and can be harmful to personal relationships, career, and schoolwork. This debilitating condition currently affects approximately 0.8% of adults in the U.S., however, experts suggest the numbers may be rising due to the pandemic.

WHAT IS PANDEMIC AGORAPHOBIA?

Due to the pandemic, many people have experienced a new or increased sense of angst about going outside of the house. A fear of being around other people on public transportation, in restaurants, or at sporting events is understandable. COVID-19 and the subsequent variants that have emerged continue to pose a threat to health and well-being. For some people, however, rational caution has spilled over into crippling fear of leaving home. In these cases, people may be suffering from what psychiatrists are calling pandemic agoraphobia.

If your concerns about going out in public have morphed into a sense of dread that keeps you housebound, it may be time to consider the possibility that you may be struggling with agoraphobia.

Due to the pandemic, many people have experienced a new or increased sense of angst about going outside of the house. Some of these people may be suffering from what psychiatrists are calling “pandemic agoraphobia.” Click To Tweet

PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF AGORAPHOBIA

People with agoraphobia may feel a range of both psychological symptoms and physical symptoms.

Mental and emotional symptoms include:

  • Fear of leaving home
  • Fear of being in crowds
  • Fear of waiting in line
  • Fear of being in enclosed places (such as elevators, movie theaters, or other confined spaces)
  • Fear of being in wide-open spaces (such as beaches, parking lots, or parks)
  • Fear of using public transportation (such as subways, airplanes, or buses)
  • Hostility or irritability (according to research in the Journal of Affective Disorders)

When in a stressful situation, people with agoraphobia may experience physical symptoms similar to those seen in a panic attack, such as:

  • Racing heart
  • Shallow breathing
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling hot
  • Perspiring
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

Chronic physical symptoms associated with agoraphobia can include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances (such as insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, or trouble staying asleep)

All of these symptoms can range from mild to severe. Recognizing your symptoms is one of the keys to understanding your condition and getting the right help.

WHAT CAUSES AGORAPHOBIA?

Experts are still researching what causes agoraphobia. Although the exact cause or causes remain unknown, the following factors increase your risk for agoraphobia.

  • Parental overprotectiveness: Research suggests that growing up with overprotective parents contributes to the risk of agoraphobia.
  • Having another mental health disorder: Research shows that during their lifetime, 87% of people with agoraphobia will have another psychiatric condition, such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety, specific phobia, or substance abuse. Neuroticism may also heighten the risk for the disorder.
  • Early-life trauma: Having a history of adverse childhood experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse or the death of a parent increases risk.
  • A blood relative with agoraphobia: Some people may have a genetic predisposition for the condition.

GETTING A DIAGNOSIS AND TREATING AGORAPHOBIA

Getting the right treatment for agoraphobia depends on getting the right diagnosis. This condition is sometimes misdiagnosed as other types of anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or major depressive disorder. For an accurate diagnosis, functional brain SPECT imaging can help. SPECT measures blood flow and activity in the brain and reveals patterns commonly seen in mental health conditions. For example, SPECT has helped the psychiatrists at Amen Clinics identify 7 types of anxiety and depression.

Knowing your type and identifying any co-occurring disorders can be so helpful in getting the targeted treatment you need. In general, treatment for agoraphobia may include:

  • Psychotherapy: Several forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, may be beneficial for people suffering from agoraphobia.
  • Lifestyle changes: Avoiding foods that increase anxiety, exercising to boost production of calming brain chemicals, meditating or praying to soothe stress, and practicing diaphragmatic breathing can be helpful.
  • Nutritional supplements: Nutraceuticals, such as GABA, magnesium, L-theanine, and vitamin B6, have been shown to soothe anxiousness and encourage relaxation of the mind and body.
  • Medications: In some cases, depending on co-occurring disorders, medications may be recommended.

With a treatment plan that is targeted to your needs, you can begin to overcome agoraphobia, whether it is something you’ve been dealing with for years or only since the pandemic hit.

Agoraphobia, anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

6 Comments »

  1. My mother was diagnosed around 1962 after her third child was born.I think they may have misdiagnosed her with ggrophibia instead of post party depression. She was put on 17 pills a day suffered a nervous break down .After 2 years the good old fashion ineternist who visited us at my grandmothers home. Weaned her off. She still took a valium to go out , and as time passed a xanax .I shopped for her , set her hair, There were days she could go out but we drove her to the beauty palor or the doctor. As years passed she fought with everyone including her own sister ,They didnt speak for 45 years . We tried different psycatarist but when they wanted to help she quit going .I believe my mother used her agoraphobia as a crutch to do what she wanted .we all took care of her she was very spoiled,Not until my dad die did I go to therapy and stop defending her.the key is the correct diagnosis. the key is try and help yourself a little . Not easy .

    Comment by Mariann TEPEDINO — December 6, 2021 @ 4:01 AM

  2. As a Mental Health Professional, I HIGHLY appreciate the wealth of knowledge you share with us. Thank you! I’m wondering if you would share which supplement you have that you often recommend to pt who wish to start with a supplement. You have so many I have a hard time often recommending a certain one. In fact a cheat sheet would be fantastic, lol! Thanks again!

    Comment by Shanda — December 6, 2021 @ 6:03 AM

  3. I used to be anxious about eating with people and I read somewhere it’s part of agrophobia; I’m over it now but an acquaintance has this fear. Is it an agrophobia symptom and what can be done for it?

    Comment by Ginny — December 6, 2021 @ 9:34 AM

  4. Ivre got a problem with agoraphobia. It’s getting worse and not better. Think caused by sexual trauma caused by a doctor. Do you know of any therapist in Murfreesboro TN?

    Comment by Lisa Keener — December 6, 2021 @ 11:34 AM

  5. Back in the early 90’s I suffered from agoraphobia. The doctors in our area were not truly sure what medication would work best As a result, they basically shut down my brain with Anti-depressant cocktail along with Valium. As they “woke” up my brain they put me on a Prozac (really new medication) and Xanax (another relatively new med) and cocktail. Today, I have very little memory of most of my life. I ended up in a 30 in-patient program to get off Xanax; again they really had no protocol for getting off this med other than Cold Turkey. I believe this too may have caused silent seizures. I am unable to pay for a scan but I am curious what damage was done.

    Comment by Margaret Huff — December 6, 2021 @ 6:40 PM

  6. Hi Lisa, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations: https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/. If you’re unable to travel to one of our locations, our Care Coordinators may be able to assist you with resources or referrals closer to you. For more information, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 7, 2021 @ 3:01 PM

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