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Agoraphobia

Obsessive, persistent, intense fear of open places.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Library of Medicine)

About Panic and Agoraphobia

People who have full-blown, repeated panic attacks can become very disabled by their condition and should seek treatment before they start to avoid places or situations where panic attacks have occurred. For example, if a panic attack happened in an elevator, someone with panic disorder may develop a fear of elevators that could affect the choice of a job or an apartment, and restrict where that person can seek medical attention or enjoy entertainment.

Some people's lives become so restricted that they avoid normal activities, such as grocery shopping or driving. About one-third become housebound or are able to confront a feared situation only when accompanied by a spouse or other trusted person. When the condition progresses this far, it is called agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces.

Early treatment can often prevent agoraphobia, but people with panic disorder may sometimes go from doctor to doctor for years and visit the emergency room repeatedly before someone correctly diagnoses their condition. This is unfortunate, because panic disorder is one of the most treatable of all the anxiety disorders, responding in most cases to certain kinds of medication or certain kinds of cognitive psychotherapy, which help change thinking patterns that lead to fear and anxiety...Read more about Panic Disorder NIH - National Institute of Mental Health

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Psychological therapies versus medication for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia in adults

Panic disorder is common and harmful to mental well‐being. Psychological therapies and medication (usually antidepressants or benzodiazepines) are effective against panic disorder. However, there are no up‐to‐date reviews on the superiority and acceptability of these two forms of treatment, and such a review is necessary to improve treatment planning for this disorder.

Psychological therapies for the treatment of panic disorder with or without agoraphobia

Many people suffer from panic disorder. Panic disorder can occur on its own or with agoraphobia. People with panic disorder experience recurring panic attacks. During a panic attack people feel the sudden onset of intense fear alongside a series of bodily symptoms such as a racing heart, chest pain, sweating, shaking, dizziness, flushing, stomach churning, faintness and breathlessness. People with agoraphobia feel an intense fear of developing a panic attack in situations where escape might be difficult or embarrassing. This fear often leads to the avoidance of such situations.

The efficacy of couples-based interventions for panic disorder with agoraphobia

Bibliographic details: Byrne M, Carr A, Clark M.  The efficacy of couples-based interventions for panic disorder with agoraphobia. Journal of Family Therapy 2004; 26(2): 105-125

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Summaries for consumers

Psychological therapies versus medication for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia in adults

Panic disorder is common and harmful to mental well‐being. Psychological therapies and medication (usually antidepressants or benzodiazepines) are effective against panic disorder. However, there are no up‐to‐date reviews on the superiority and acceptability of these two forms of treatment, and such a review is necessary to improve treatment planning for this disorder.

Psychological therapies for the treatment of panic disorder with or without agoraphobia

Many people suffer from panic disorder. Panic disorder can occur on its own or with agoraphobia. People with panic disorder experience recurring panic attacks. During a panic attack people feel the sudden onset of intense fear alongside a series of bodily symptoms such as a racing heart, chest pain, sweating, shaking, dizziness, flushing, stomach churning, faintness and breathlessness. People with agoraphobia feel an intense fear of developing a panic attack in situations where escape might be difficult or embarrassing. This fear often leads to the avoidance of such situations.

Psychotherapy combined with antidepressants for panic disorder

Psychotherapy plus antidepressant treatment were compared with each of the two individual treatments alone for panic disorder. At the end of the acute phase treatment, the combined therapy was superior to psychotherapy or antidepressant treatment alone. After termination of active treatment, the combined therapy was superior to antidepressants alone and was as effective as psychotherapy alone. Either combined therapy or psychotherapy alone may be chosen as first line treatment for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, depending on patient preference.

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More about Agoraphobia

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Agoraphobic

Other terms to know:
Anxiety, Panic Disorder

Keep up with systematic reviews on Agoraphobia:

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