Agoraphobia is a considered a fear of going outside, or into open or unfamiliar places. People with agoraphobia generally only go to places they know and feel comfortable, like their home or the office. With severe cases of agoraphobia, a person might not leave their house at all.
It is possible to develop agoraphobia as a result of trauma and abuse. Some people develop agoraphobia because of depression or loss. But a large number of people develop agoraphobia as a result of panic attacks, which is why panic attacks are often described as “with/without agoraphobia.”
How Can Panic Attacks Cause Agoraphobia?
No matter its origin, people with agoraphobia typically avoid places that they believe will cause them extreme distress or anxiety. For someone with panic attacks, that can be anywhere.
Typically, people with recurring panic attacks end up struggling with two distinct issues:
- First, panic attacks are very self-fulfilling. If a person fears they may have a panic attack, they are more likely to get one. When someone struggles often with panic attacks, they may start to worry that they’ll get one at a specific location. That worry triggers a panic attack, reinforcing the fear, and causing them to avoid the place in the future. Over time, they run out of places, and are left with only their home and potentially a few other places they may feel safe.
- Second, those with panic attacks may start to feel uncomfortable socially as a response to these attacks. Those feelings can make it difficult for someone with panic to feel a desire to try to break out of their comfort zone. They may withdraw from most events, or worry about being ashamed by having a panic attack out in public.
The self-fulfilling nature of panic attacks combined with a general desire to avoid having a panic attack while around strangers or other people makes those with panic disorder much more prone to agoraphobia. In addition, panic attacks are, in many ways, minor traumas. People with panic attacks may have symptoms that resemble PTSD, as they feel on edge about this intense feeling of death or doom that they struggled with while out. That can also make them more prone to agoraphobic tendencies.
Reducing Agoraphobia Directly and Indirectly
Agoraphobia is its own distinct condition. But it is also difficult to treat agoraphobia alone, especially when it is connected to panic and panic attacks. That is why most treatments are going to need to be holistic, taking into account the agoraphobia, the panic attacks, and potentially even feelings of trauma. By addressing all of these issues together, you put yourself in a better position to address agoraphobia, anxiety, and mental health challenges. Contact Right Path Counseling today to get started.