"I am a thirty-something ranch wife, mother of four, moderately agoraphobic
middle child who grew up on a golf course in the city.."
- Ree Drummond, New York Time's best-selling author,
food writer, blogger, photographer and television personality.
Do you struggle with moderate-to-severe bouts of anxiety when venturing into public and/or open environments? If so, you could be suffering from an anxiety disorder known as agoraphobia.
The term “agoraphobia” originates from the Greek language, meaning “open space” and “phobia,” which is exactly how this condition is characterized. People diagnosed with agoraphobia may choose to avoid social gatherings and public outings, fearing it will bring on a panic attack or associated anxiety. It's not uncommon for people with this disorder to stay inside their homes, viewing it as a safe haven.
Agoraphobia isn't limited strictly to "home bodies," though; while experts initially viewed the disorder as a fear of being away from home, it's not believed that agoraphobia can trigger fears of any open environment.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that agoraphobia affects upwards of 3.2 million adults in the U.S. alone. What's even more alarming is that 60% of all phobias involve agoraphobia. So, what's causing the increased prevalence of this disorder?
While the exact causes of agoraphobia remain unknown, health experts have successfully identified several different risk factors that may play a role in its formation. Long-term use of sedative drugs such as sleeping aids and benzodiazepines is believed to increase a person's risk of developing agoraphobia. Other risk factors linked to this disorder include tobacco use, alcohol use, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But there are treatment options available for people suffering form agoraphobia, including exposure treatment. Exposure treatment involves placing the patient in open situations the he or he fears. By showing the patient that there's nothing to be afraid of, his or her agoraphobia will subside. The key to successfully treating agoraphobia with exposure treatment is keep the patient in the situation until their anxiety has passed. If the patient leaves before this time, the condition may worsen.
Another proven and effective method for agoraphobia is hypnotherapy. By inducing a state between consciousness and unconsciousness, an experienced professional hypnotherapist can train the patient's mind to longer fear open environments. It may take a single session, or it may take several, but hypnotherapy can effectively root out and cure agoraphobia.