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Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia: Everything from A to Z

Both panic disorder and agoraphobia are frightening, often debilitating, chronic anxiety disorders that negatively impact your quality of life. Here, Flo outlines their root causes, as well as typical forms of treatment options for agoraphobia with panic disorder.

While some individuals have been diagnosed with one or the other, some must deal with both panic disorder and agoraphobia simultaneously.

Panic disorder is a condition in which you regularly experience panic attacks. Agoraphobia, on the other hand, is an intense fear of being in a place where you might feel trapped or helpless. You’re worried that either an actual or potential situation could put you in harm’s way. For example, an agoraphobic may steer clear of public transportation if they believe that they won’t be able to get out if necessary.

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Other types of agoraphobia include a fear of feeling exposed in an open space, or inversely, being confined in an enclosed space. Getting caught in a crowd or standing in line might also be problematic. Their main concern is with becoming agitated in one of these settings, which would then trigger a panic attack in public. 

If you struggle with agoraphobia with panic disorder, you have difficulty feeling safe, and are perhaps unable to leave your home. You end up relying on a friend or family member to accompany you wherever you go.

People with panic disorder with agoraphobia exhibit physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. It’s specifically the physical symptoms (caused by anxiety) that produce panic attacks and include: 

  • Rapid, pounding heartbeat
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Nausea or headaches 
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling sensations 

Agoraphobia symptoms, however, appear mentally and emotionally based on a fear of the following:

  • Public spaces, such as a busy street or crowded park
  • Being confined in an area like an elevator or store
  • Getting caught in large crowds, like at a concert or movie theater
  • Using public transportation

Being in any of these situations could lead someone with panic disorder and agoraphobia to feel trapped or unable to get help for a panic attack.

As with many psychological conditions, medical experts do not know the exact cause of panic disorder with agoraphobia. But certain biological factors can contribute to its development, such as: 

  • An abnormal “fight or flight” response, which fools your nervous system into believing you’re in danger even when you’re not.
  • Poor spatial awareness and balance make you easily disoriented if you have panic disorder and agoraphobia. You get anxious or overwhelmed in crowded areas.
  • An imbalance in your brain’s neurotransmitters influencing mood and behavior produces more stress and panic than usual.
  • A malfunctioning or differently wired part of the brain (designed to process fear) could exist in patients with panic disorder and agoraphobia. This concept is called the “fear network theory.” 

Lastly, there are some psychological factors affecting your tendency toward agoraphobia with panic disorder, like undergoing a traumatic or stressful event. This includes sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, past mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, or a toxic relationship

Because panic disorder with agoraphobia is a mental health condition, only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose it. If you’ve ever experienced panic attacks and harbor a fear of public places, consult your doctor about these symptoms. They’ll likely look into whether:

  • You have any underlying medical conditions that could play a role
  • You always feel anxious when you’re in open or confined spaces
  • The level of fear you’re experiencing is disproportionate to the likelihood of something negative actually happening
  • You’re avoiding specific situations, becoming socially isolated, or severely compromising your quality of life
  • You’ve had symptoms of panic disorder with agoraphobia for more than six months

The good news is, many treatments for agoraphobia with panic disorder exist, including psychotherapy or talk therapy and medication. 

By working with a therapist, you’ll learn to cope with anxiety and reduce the intensity or frequency of panic attacks. You’ll also be able to manage your symptoms if a panic attack does occur and control your level of fear from day to day. If prescription drugs are used to treat panic disorder with agoraphobia, they generally include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.

Panic disorder with agoraphobia significantly hinders your ability to live a full and happy life, usually due to social isolation. That’s why agoraphobia with panic disorder patients often develop other mental illnesses such as depression and personality disorders. 

When you have panic disorder and agoraphobia, you may be more susceptible to chemical dependency. Drugs and alcohol are used to self-medicate, in turn, creating other medical complications like high blood pressure or stroke. 

The best way to avoid such complications and to prevent severe panic disorder with agoraphobia is by seeking medical attention right away. With proper care, you can manage the symptoms of panic disorder and agoraphobia and lead a healthy and active life. 

Panic disorder and agoraphobia are commonly diagnosed psychological conditions that produce a great deal of stress and anxiety. While there is no cure, many treatment options exist to relieve debilitating symptoms and help restore your overall quality of life. Consult a healthcare practitioner for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355987

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/agoraphobia/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355987

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355993

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-2035598

https://www.healthline.com/health/agoraphobia#outlook

https://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0515/p2419.html

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