How to Tell If You Have Agoraphobia: 14 Steps

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How to Tell If You Have Agoraphobia: 14 Steps
How to Tell If You Have Agoraphobia: 14 Steps

Many people suffer from agoraphobia, an anxiety-related disorder. In the United States, the disease affects 5% of the inhabitants and in Brazil studies indicate that 12% of the population have problems caused by excessive anxiety. A word of Greek origin, agoraphobia can be translated as “fear of open places”, but it can make more sense if explained as “fear of being afraid” or fear of having a panic attack in public places. Statistics indicate that women suffer twice as much as men from this type of psychic disorder that makes people uncomfortable with strangers, socializing or in an unfamiliar environment. Finding out whether or not you have agoraphobia is the first step in solving the problem.


Part 1 of 3: Identifying Agoraphobia-Related Behaviors

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 1

Step 1. Be aware if you need company to go outside

Those who are afraid of going out alone, always try to count on the presence of an acquaintance during a trip or to go somewhere new. Independence for those suffering from agoraphobia is almost impossible, as the person feels comfortable only with a family member or friend.

Feeling anxious just thinking about going to the grocery store to buy a liter of milk can be a sign of agoraphobia

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 2

Step 2. Assess whether you choose only the predetermined paths

One of the hallmarks of agoraphobia is the fear that going to an unfamiliar place might trigger anxiety triggers. For this reason, many people end up creating “safe” routes to move outside the home, whether for shopping or going to work, for example.

Being afraid to try new paths in everyday life and repeating exactly the same path between home and work, without changing sidewalks or walking through different streets, can also be a symptom of agoraphobia

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 3

Step 3. Pay attention and consider whether you are giving up social life

Those who suffer from this condition start to limit the number of places they go to to prevent a situation or someone from causing a panic attack. People with agoraphobia tend to create "comfort zones" such as home and work, isolate themselves in these places and avoid making new friends. The agoraphobic does not realize that sociability has been reduced and limited.

Maybe going out with friends, going to bars, parties and movies, in addition to school and work were part of your routine. But little by little, without realizing it, you started to refuse invitations and to isolate yourself for “being afraid of being afraid”. In the end, the semester ended and, in fact, the desire was not to enroll for the next year for fear of having panic attacks in the classroom. Plus, you've seen less and less friends and spent just enough time at work. This behavior is an indication of agoraphobia

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 4

Step 4. Identify fear or anxiety in the crowd

When you come across a lot of people at the mall, at a concert or in the supermarket, do you feel short of breath? Anxiety, sweating palms, excessive worry, rapid heartbeat, and disconnected thoughts can all be symptoms of agoraphobia.

Even if you don't have a panic attack, just being afraid of having a crisis at a social event can be a manifestation of this anxiety disorder

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 5

Step 5. Pay attention to fear or anxiety indoors

Panic symptoms associated with agoraphobia can manifest when a person thinks he or she cannot escape. How does it feel to be confined, even for a moment? Actions such as going through tunnels on avenues and streets while in the car, taking the subway, elevator, bus, plane or train can trigger anxiety triggers or cause a crisis.

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 6

Step 6. What situations make you want to run?

Being afraid of getting stuck and not being able to escape from a place or situation is a common feeling for someone who suffers from agoraphobia. Anyone looking to sneak away may even be embarrassed or embarrassed, but at the time they give a lame excuse. Sometimes he didn't even realize that, instead of leaving, he ended up lying on the couch, without showing any reaction to the problem.

You may experience an episode of agoraphobia when you are with a friend at the football stadium. The feeling of fear is so bad that instead of opening your game and telling yourself you're having a crisis, you make up a lame excuse to leave and tell your friend that you need to go home and take care of the dog. Maybe you end up faking an illness or inventing another kind of big problem

Part 2 of 3: Recognizing personal symptoms of agoraphobia

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 7

Step 1. Note whether the anxiety is persistent

The main characteristic of agoraphobia is to feel extreme anguish and fear when you think you are going to get stuck. In this situation, which happens most of the time outside the home, the person can be apprehensive and have a feeling of terror, as if something bad could happen. You must have symptoms of agoraphobia for at least six months before the doctor makes the diagnosis.

Anxiety can be the cause of the crisis. Symptoms of a panic attack include chest pain, numbness, dizziness, trembling, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, getting cold or hot, feeling disconnected from yourself, or feeling unreal. (depersonalization), fear of dying or of losing control and going crazy

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 8

Step 2. Identify the causes of your fears

The fears of those who suffer from this type of disorder are quite specific. To diagnose agoraphobia, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) warns that the patient should feel fear in two or more of these situations:

  • stand in the crowd or wait in line;
  • stay in an open place such as a market or parking lot;
  • stay indoors like a cafe or movie theater;
  • use public transport such as bus, subway, train, plane or ferry;
  • leave the house alone.
Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 9

Step 3. Recognize the dread of being alone

Do you hate being alone because you are afraid of panicking, having confused thoughts, feeling short of breath, having rapid heartbeat and mental confusion? These are symptoms of agoraphobia. Notice whether the intensity of these feelings increases when you are unaccompanied.

There are two types of fear that can arise when someone is alone. One of them is directly linked to agoraphobia. The other appears when the person is alone and feels vulnerable to attacks. The latter is not a symptom of agoraphobia. Correct identification is essential for correct diagnosis

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 10

Step 4. Keep in mind that there are people more susceptible to agoraphobia

Women and individuals under 35 years of age are more likely to suffer from the disorder. Other risk factors for agoraphobia include:

  • Suffering from some other problem like panic disorder or another phobia;
  • Feeling anxious or nervous most of the time;
  • Going through traumatic experiences such as losing a parent, being abused or being attacked;
  • Possessing someone with a family history of agoraphobia (consanguineous relative);
  • Have depression;
  • Going through problems related to drug abuse.

Part 3 of 3: Looking for help with agoraphobia

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 11

Step 1. Ask the doctor about medications

Treatment of agoraphobia must combine medication and therapy. The most common prescription for these cases are:

  • Antidepressants. Medications such as paroxetine or fluoxetine that are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), when prescribed by a doctor, can help treat patients who have panic attacks and agoraphobia. Other options include tricyclic antidepressants (ADT) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI).
  • Medication to treat anxiety. Benzodiazepine is a product that can be effective in a short period of time, but its use is risky, as it can cause dependence. Therefore, the medicine prescribed by the healthcare professional should be reserved only for emergencies such as panic attacks.
Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 12

Step 2. Seek treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective way to treat agoraphobia. The method uses cognitive therapy techniques (arguing that certain mental illnesses are linked to the patient's way of thinking) with behavioral (which argues that each one of us can change habits that make us sick).

  • The CBT will start to show results after some time of weekly sessions lasting 50 minutes each. The therapist will talk and ask how you see agoraphobia and ask you to review your thought patterns and actions, as a small task to hand in at the next session.
  • Over time, the therapist will suggest that you gradually return to social life, the goal is to combat and eliminate the negative feelings caused by agoraphobia. First you can try to go out and stay for 15 minutes at the grocery store, then 30 minutes, an hour, and so on until you feel good and readapted to social situations.
Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 13

Step 3. Re-educate the mind

Agoraphobia is what happens in the brain when it says something that isn't true: "You're cornered," "You're not safe here," or "Trust no one." Learn to deal with the problem by changing your thinking and rejecting the wrong messages sent by the mind. The first step in psychic re-education is to recognize that the mind is confused and that the signals it is receiving are false.

The moment your brain alerts you to freak out, because there is danger in sight, take a deep breath and look for other information that will help you understand what's going on. Remember that you “survived” other panic attacks, did not get hurt, let alone die (this is one of the main fears of those with agoraphobia)

Know if You Are Agoraphobic Step 14

Step 4. Face the problems

The coping strategy (when someone exposes themselves) prevents escape and makes us look straight on what makes us afraid. You have to take control, fight anxiety, fight phobias, and experience things for the first time. After facing the “psychic fire”, you will be reborn as the Phoenix, mentally renewed.

  • Take a test. Are you afraid of having another crisis just thinking about going to a football stadium to see Corinthians vs. Palmeiras? Start slowly and invite a friend to watch a futsal match and try to stay between 15 and 20 minutes. The gyms are smaller and the public is more relaxed. Next time, stay for about 40 minutes, and so on progressively, until you find yourself in the stands until the final whistle.
  • Be honest about your comfort levels. The goal is to identify the triggers of panic attacks and agoraphobia, not cause an attack. Don't be in a hurry and avoid over-exposure. Respect your rhythm and write down in your diary what feelings came to the surface with the experience. This will help you assess your progress.


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