Agoraphobia is the one of the most common anxiety disorder. It means ‘’marketplace fear’ in Greek. People who have agoraphobia get anxious to go place which they can not escape or hard to escape. For example a person, who is in a crowded market, gets anxious if he or she feels that can not escape because of the crowded place.
What are DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Agoraphobia ? (1)
- Intense fear or anxiety prompted by the actual or predicted exposure to 2 or more of the following situations:
- Using public transportation
- Being in open areas
- Being in closed-off areas
- Standing in line or a crowd
- Being alone outside of the house
- He or she avoids the above situations because the individual believes they may become stuck or help might be unavailable in the event that the individual begins to panic.
- The listed situations usually incite fear or anxiety.
- The listed situations are avoided, require help from a loved one, or are endured with a strong fear.
- The fear the individual has is out of proportion to the possibility of danger.
- The fear or avoidance is persistent, as it typically lasts for at least 6 months or longer.
- The fear or avoidance causes the individual significant distress.
- If another medical condition exists alongside of this disorder, the fear or avoidance is undoubtedly excessive.
- The fear of avoidance is not better explained by the symptoms of another medical disorder or a situational circumstance.
What are the causes of agoraphobia?
Genetic susceptibility, cognitive factors and life events can effect progression and development of agoraphobia. When we look at cognitive factors, the person fears from fear. In addition that s/he has some negative and catastrophic thoughts about s/he gets anxious in a public place. For example, a person who is in a crowded place can get anxious and then s/he thinks that ‘if I lose myself in this place, people will stigmatize me as crazy’ and then s/he tries to escape from this crowded place. S/he gets anxious more if they can not escape from this crowded place.
How is the treatment of agoraphobia?
Medication plus psychotherapy is the most effective way to treat agoraphobia. Just psychotherapy is also effective. Generally, ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’ is used in psychotherapy. In this therapy, exposure technique is used most and the person is exposed to feared situation. Together with treatment, psychologist should inform the person’s family and friends about how to support and behave to the person.
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.