Agoraphobia And Panic Attacks
Agoraphobia and panic attacks are intimately related. Most cases of agoraphobia are thought to begin as a coping mechanism for panic attacks.
How does this all happen?
If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you know the overwhelming sense of fear and the intense physical discomfort that occurs. It is not something you would really want to repeat.
Most people with panic attacks do not really want to have another.
Avoiding Places and Activities
It is natural for us to want to avoid painful experiences. In an attempt to avoid another attack some people will consciously or subconsciously stay away from the activity, situation or physical place where the episode occurred.
The trouble with fear and panic is that they tend to be strengthened, not weakened by avoidance.
The act of avoiding a certain location will over time actually increase your level of fear about the place you are avoiding. It is as though your brain observes you keeping away from this place and uses that to confirm its premise that the location is a dangerous one.
The more you avoid, the more powerful the fear becomes.
If a person has several panic attacks and uses avoidance as a coping mechanism you can imagine how small their world can quickly become.
Soon they are relying on staying close to certain special comfort zones, "safe" people, and even certain times of day.
This is such an understandable, human response to things we dislike or find painful. It is quite natural to want to stay away from things that cause us pain or discomfort, and to cling to what we feel might offer us a refuge.
Extreme agoraphobia and panic attacks result in isolation
Agoraphobia often occurs as an escalation of untreated panic disorder. After repeated panic attacks, so many places and activities become labeled as "dangerous" that there are very few places left where it feels safe to go.
Sometimes agoraphobia and panic attacks mean that home is the only "safe" place left.
With so many limitations on life, a sense of helplessness and depression can set in. It becomes hard to maintain a social life, and difficult to earn a living.
If this sounds like you, there is help available
Agoraphobia and panic attacks do not get better by themselves. Because of the interaction of unrealistic catastropic thinking patterns and avoidance behavior a downward spiral usually results - closing your world in bit by bit.
In its most extreme form, agoraphobia and panic attacks can lead to a person becoming totally housebound for years, in some cases never being able to leave their own bedroom.
Don't let that be you! Look into some ways you can help cure your agoraphobia and panic attacks. It would definitely be a good idea.
"Panic attacks." Magill's Medical Guide, 4th Rev. ed.. 2008
Wittchen HU, Reed V, Kessler RC. The relationship of agoraphobia and panic in a community sample of adolescents and young adults. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1998; 55: 1017-24.
Bienvenu OJ, Onyike CU, Stein MB. et al. Agoraphobia in adults: incidence and longitudinal relationship with panic. Br J Psychiatry 2006; 188: 432-38.
Goodwill RD, Faravelli C, Rosi S. et al. The epidemiology of panic disorder and agoraphobia in Europe. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2005; 15:435-43
Return from this Agoraphobia And Panic Attacks page to the Panic And Agoraphobia home page.