Two Major Ways Of Dealing With Agoraphobia

dealing with agoraphobia

How to feel relaxed in a crowd

Why “agora” (the ancient Greek marketplace) came to stand for a place that’s hard to escape from hasn’t been explained. Perhaps, it’s because this is where citizens would gather for military duty or to hear the royal edicts. At any rate, agoraphobia is the fear of being in places one perceives to be difficult to escape from. This can include crowds, open spaces and even vehicles. There are two major ways of dealing with agoraphobia.

Medication – One of the ways of dealing with agoraphobia is with the use of drugs. These are the most common psychopharmaceuticals prescribed by doctors.

1. Tricyclic antidepressants were once the drug of choice for clinical depression and anxiety disorders. Although they have been replaced by newer types of antidepressants, TCAs are still held to be more successful in treating melancholic depression or one that has been resistant to the newer antidepressant classes.

2. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a newer class of antidepressants with fewer side effects than TCAs. SSRIs are among the most widely prescribed drugs for anxiety disorders like agoraphobia, and for clinical depression.

3. Benzodiazepines are a safe and effective medication for anxiety disorders like agoraphobia when used on the short-term. They alleviate symptoms of anxiety faster than antidepressants do and are frequently prescribed for panic disorder which, at times, accompanies agoraphobia.

4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are considered the drug of last resort in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Effective against panic disorder with agoraphobia, MAOIs are also specially prescribed for outpatients who are diagnosed with neurotic depression.

Therapy – Because much of agoraphobia is due to perception, psychotherapy is most popular among the different ways of dealing with agoraphobia. Among the most effective methods are:

1. Graduated exposure therapy – Also called systemic desensitization, this is a type of conditioning therapy that makes a person confront his or her fears in stages. The first step of the process is to teach the person relaxation techniques in order to help the person cope with anxiety. One of the most effective forms of relaxation training used in this type of therapy is meditation. The effects of forms like Mindfulness Meditation to reduce stress, anxiety and depression serve as the foundation on which the next stages of the therapy are based. The second stage is to have the person imagine the situations that cause the phobia in gradual stages. In the case of agoraphobia, the person might start with a small crowd, then, gradually, move up to larger crowds as the therapy progresses. Although the therapy may remain at a mental level, actual exposure to real-life situations sometimes follows when the patient is adequately prepared.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – This involves helping the person change the way he or she thinks about the problem (such as being in the middle of crowd), then putting that person in the actual situation. CBT is considered effective in the treatment of many types of anxiety disorder, even more so than drugs or psychodynamic treatments. It is most effective with persons who are introspective and who are willing to make the effort to analyze their thoughts and emotions. By learning how one’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs can cause problematic behaviors, a person is in a better position to deal with the specific problem in real life when it occurs.

There are alternative ways of dealing with agoraphobia such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming, joining support groups, getting involved in social work, herbal medicines, biofeedback and others. Medication and therapy, however, are the two ways of dealing with agoraphobia that have been shown to be most effective.

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