How Agoraphobia can develop out of Panic disorder

Posted on: 2nd April 2018

a picture of a relaxing beach.

According to cognitive behavioural theory, people with panic disorder remember vividly the places where they have had an attack. They greatly fear those places and that fear generalises to all similar places. By avoiding these places anxiety is reduced and avoidance behaviour is reinforced. Such avoidance behaviours have been called safety behaviours. Through conditioning behaviour has been shaped into what we call agoraphobia. If you can answer YES to most of the questions it is likely that you are affected by agoraphobia. In the last 6 months:

  • Did you regularly avoid situations because you were afraid of having a panic attack?
  • Did you feel anxious about:
    • Leaving home?
    • Standing in long lines such as queues at the bank, supermarket till or bus stop?
    • Being in a confined space such as being on the underground or in a lift?
    • Being at home alone?
    • Being in wide open spaces, such as park?
    • Being in crowded places such as shopping centre?
    • Did you actively avoid being in any of the above situations?

Whatever the severity of your agoraphobia, one thing is certain – the longer you leave the symptoms, the harder it will be to treat. Therefore, it is best to seek help sooner rather than later. It is important to seek further information and guidance from your GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis. Other support is available from organisations such as Anxiety UK who have some excellent resources in their online shop or the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), visit https://www.nice.org.uk/ or ring 0845 003 7780. Counselling is often used to treat agoraphobia and explore issues in-depth. Often, the cause of your anxiety can also be explored through counselling sessions. The most common form of counselling is known as Person Centred Counselling. This type of therapy seeks to explore the main issues from your unique perspective. Anxiety medication may be prescribed by your G.P. if the fear is accompanied by frequent panic attacks and loss of sleep. It is important to note that medication will only help to alleviate symptoms and will not resolve any underlying issues. NICE recommends that if medication is taken, you also undertake other forms of treatment such as counselling or clinical hypnotherapy. If you feel online counselling may help you then please get in touch by email or on 07891593571