Agoraphobia Causes

Agoraphobia causes are the subject of a large number of scientific studies.

Scientists wonder if there is a genetic link or if certain diets, activities or experiences cause this condition.

It's estimated that over 95% of people with agoraphobia have panic attacks. It's rare to have agoraphobia on its own. No one knows for sure what creates the condition of agoraphobia, but there are several theories.

Recent Genetic Research

A great deal of research is being done on agoraphobia causes.

It is likely there could be a genetic predisposition for panic attacks, panic disorder and agoraphobia.

In one research study, it was found that if one identical twin suffered from panic, it was likely the other would as well. The numbers were significantly lower for fraternal twins.

Other studies have concentrated on the impact of specific genes known to have an influence on anxiety pathophysiology. Regions of chromosome 1,chromosome 11, the cholecystokinin-B (CCK-B) receptor gene, and the adenosine 2A receptor gene have been studied and show some linkage between genetics and panic disorder.

Other scientific studies show a possible implication of influence of the gene for catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) on chromosome 22 that codes for the enzyme responsible for norepinephrine metabolism. Norepinephrine is a hormone released as part of the stress response.

Interestingly, most scientific studies of serotonin-related genes have been negative for a link to panic disorder or agoraphobia.

Understanding the genetics of a disease or condition enable us to help predict who is more likely to be suseptible to its development, thereby allowing us to help to prevent it.

Genes Alone Do Not Determine Destiny

It is important to know however that even if you happen to have a genetic makeup consistent with the development of panic and agoraphobia - it does not necessarily mean that you will develop this condition.

It is also important to know that you can always be successfully treated for agoraphobia - regardless of the actual causes.

Spatial Orientation

Problems with spatial orientation have been identified as a contributing factor to panic attacks and agoraphobia in some studies.

Neural Circuitry

Differences in reactions to certain neurologically active chemicals between people with panic disorder and control groups have contributed to theories involving differences in parts of the nervous system.

These include:

  • amygdala and temporal lobe volumes
  • reduced blood flow in the orbitofrontal region
  • lower levels of cerebral glucose metabolism in the amygdala, brain stem,thalamus and hippocampus areas of the brain
  • reduced levels of medial temporal lobe phosphocreatine and creatine metabolites

These metabolic signs point to differences either structurally or metabolically in the brains of people who suffer from panic disorder and those who do not.

However a difference does not necessarily show cause. The difference might actuallt be there due to the result of the disorder instead.

Anti-Anxiety Medication Chronic Use

Chronic use of anti-anxiety medications such as sleeping pills, benzodiazaphines have been demonstrated to cause agoraphobia in several cases.

Thinking Patterns

Scientific studies have found that self conditioned fear of internal anxiety cues and sensations are typically found with panic attack disorder and agoraphobia.

What does this mean?

It means that people who become extra attentive to the physical signs of anxiety or panic such as increased heart beat, or breathlessness AND begin to fear these sensations when they feel them are very likely to become agoraphobic. Please note that this is a self conditioned or self taught response.

Attending to these sensations and then attributing a fearful or catastrophic meaning to them such as "Something bad is going to happen" "I am going to die" "I am probably about to lose control" "I can't breathe" is a trait often seen in people who become agoraphobic.

This type of thinking is one of the main agoraphobia causes.

Luckily, you can train yourself out of negative catastrophic ways of thinking. This is why some form of cognitive behavior therapy is the most powerful treatment for agoraphobia.

Through cognitive behavior therapy you slowly learn to become more realistic in your thoughts about panic and fearful events, to become less attentive to the physical sensations of anxiety, and to be able to venture outside the house again and resume the activities you once loved.

Agoraphobia Causes Research References

Gelernter J, Bonvicini K, Page G, et al. Linkage genome scan for loci predisposing to panic disorder or agoraphobia causes. Am J Med Genet 2001; 105: 548-57.

Gorman JM, Kent JM, Sullivan GM, Coplan JD. Neuroanatomical hypothesis of panic disorder, revised. Am J Psychiatry 2000; 157: 493-505

Roy-Byrne, Peter P; Craske, Michelle G; Stein, Murray B. "Panic disorder." Lancet 9540(2006):1023

Massana G, Serra-Grabulosa JM, Salgado-Pineda P, et al. Amygdalar atrophy in panic disorder patients Neuroimage 2003; 19: 80-90

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