Agoraphobia And Cognitive Therapy


If you suffer from agoraphobia and cognitive therapy is part of your treatment, you are on the path to recovery!

Cognitive behavior therapy is widely recognized as the most effective treatment for agoraphobia especially when conducted along with some form of exposure therapy.

A very important part of recovering from agoraphobia is to change your thinking patterns about anxiety and panic attacks. One of the main reasons people become agoraphobic is due to fear of experiencing another panic attack - expecially in situations where escape or help might not seem to be readily available.

Cognitive behavior therapy helps you to reframe the physical symptoms you have as part of an anxiety attack or panic attack so that you no longer fear them. You begin to feel confident about going out into the world. You become confident about how to manage your anxious feelings and about being able to effectively manage panic attacks if they in fact do occur.

The way you think about things determines how you react physically and mentally. You can learn to change how you think and how you react.


Realistic Positive Thinking Is Important

Cognitive therapy teaches you to to identify negative, unrealistic thoughts and replace them with more realistic positive thoughts and to change your reasoning process as far as agoraphobia and panic attacks are concerned.

Postive thinking in this sense does not mean just thinking cheerfully all the time! It refers to reducing unrealistic thoughts about helplessness and catastrophic events, and replacing them with more realistic empowering thoughts.

Some common examples of dysfunctional unrealistic thoughts that people with agoraphobia often have focus on the following:

  • Dire consequences of leaving your zone of comfort
  • The need to be accompanied by a special "safety" person
  • Inability to cope
  • Prospect of imminent injury, embarassment, fear or death

Quite often we are not even aware of these limiting thoughts. They may just flash through our minds quickly before we even notice them. Or they may be experienced as a mental "movie" where we see in full color motion terrible events unfolding before us. These thoughts make us feel unconfident, helpless, fearful and full of dread.

Cognitive therapy teaches us to detect these sorts of thoughts, helps us to evaluate them and replace the unrealistic ones with helpful empowering thoughts. With perserverance and practice, you can detect the majority of problem thoughts and develop a unique way of stopping these harmful thoughts in their tracks.


Exposure Therapy

The next step once you begin to master identifying and eliminating negative thoughts is to practice new behavior patterns. You will start out by identifying a hierarchy of situations in which you feel anxious, from least anxiety provoking to the most anxiety provoking. For example, you might list leaving your bedroom as the least anxiety provoking scenario, walking down the block to the corner store with a friend as medium in provoking anxiety, and going to a restaurant as the worst scenario. Everyone will have a different hierarchy.

You and your therapist will work together to help you successfully accomplish each of the items in your anxiety hierarchy. By starting at the bottom, you will build success upon success and learn how to effectively manage your symptoms, thoughts, emotions and behaviors. This is called exposure therapy.

As you participate in therapy, you will gradually experiment with learning a brand new set of skills to help you not only think differently but be able to act differently - while feeling more comfortable and less anxious as you gradually increase the activities you participate in.

As a result, you can become more confident, calm, and even adventurous!


Agoraphobia and Cognitive Therapy Involves You In Your Recovery

With cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), there will be a great deal of involvement and activity on your part.

You'll be given notes, forms to fill out, various assignments and homework as part of therapy, all with the goal of getting back to how you used to be before agoraphobia disrupted your life.

You will be challenged to move outside your comfort level and slowly try different experiences as part of helping you progress.

Some people improve quickly, others take longer, but the success rate is very high, so stay positive, because you too can do this. It's also very important to complete the full program and not to quit too early.

One of the great things about this type of therapy is that most people see marked improvement in between 10 to 20 therapy sessions.


You, Agoraphobia and Cognitive Therapy

If you have agoraphobia and cognitive therapy seems to make sense to you, be aware that there are many different ways you can avail yourself of this help.

You may feel that it is too difficult or stressful at first to actually leave your house and go to an office to have an appointment. Don't worry - if this is how you feel why not begin at home?

You can receive the benefits of therapy using books, online therapy and a wide variety of self help methods and online assistance available - at many different price points. Scientific studies have shown that many of these methods are just as effective as the traditional in-office methods.


Agoraphobia and Cognitive Therapy References

Michael Craig Miller Michael Craig Miller; Harvard Mental Health Letter. "What is agoraphobia ; Treatment can alleviate this fear of public places." Chicago Tribune. 17 Jul. 2011.

Wright, Jesse H; Wright, Andrew S; Albano, Anne Marie; Basco, Monica R; Et al. "Computer-Assisted Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Maintaining Efficacy While Reducing Therapist Time." American Journal of Psychiatry 6(2005).