Resources, Help, and Support for Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia, a condition which effects as many as 3.2 million adults in the US alone, is an intense fear of having a panic attack or extreme anxiety in a situation from which there is no easy or quick way to “escape”. Individuals suffering with agoraphobia with or without the accompanying panic disorder often avoid public places or places outside their perceived comfort zone, especially large open spaces. In addition to the fear of experiencing a panic attack, the agoraphobic may have an underlying social phobia which leads them to seek a place to “hide” from others and they may even become confined to their own home or will become extremely anxious whenever traveling outside a small geographic zone they feel secure in and can rapidly escape from. The goal of the Agoraphobia Treatment Institute, founded by anxiety treatment expert Rich Presta, is to educate sufferers on the condition of agoraphobia and panic disorder with agoraphobia, as well as being a source of support and advice on recommended agoraphobia treatments.
In our experience, effectively treating agoraphobia and panic disorder requires a three-step approach:
1. Educate Yourself on the Condition of Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia isn’t a disease and/or a life-long mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Having agoraphobia doesn’t mean you’re weak, strange, or a coward, and it certainly isn’t something you need to struggle with permanently. Agoraphobia and panic disorders are the result of habitually anxious thought patterns that lead to the intense and seemingly irresistible urge to avoid the situations that frighten you. The more the situations are avoided, the more frightening they become, and the cycle of anxiety, agoraphobia, and panic attacks begins. Unfortunately, there are many myths and misinformation about agoraphobia and its treatment that tend to circulate and do far more harm than good.
One of the more common misconceptions about agoraphobia is that all agoraphobics are “shut-ins” who never venture outside their home. Although this is certainly the case with severe and improperly treated agoraphobia, as in many other anxiety and panic disorders, there are varying degrees of agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia does not necessarily mean that you cannot leave your home, but rather, that you fear situations where you perceive there to be a lack of a quick and easy escape should you feel anxious or panicky. You may avoid sporting events, elevators, shopping malls, airports, travel, being outside your comfort zone and away from your safe place, or other situations where you feel you may be “trapped” and feel anxious or embarrassed by your inability to leave on your terms. Given time, the avoidance behavior that agoraphobia encourages can make a sufferer only comfortable within their own home, but that severity is NOT a prerequisite for the condition.
Similarly, having agoraphobia or panic disorder with agoraphobia does NOT mean you are crazy, eccentric, or hopelessly mentally ill. Some people correlate agoraphobia with delusional “Howard Hughes” type behavior, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although Hollywood likes to portray agoraphobia this way in movies, agoraphobia and panic attacks have NOTHING to do with and DO NOT lead to other mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
Lastly, agoraphobia is not a question of will-power. It is caused by a physiological response in your body that is overreacting and wrongly occurring at an inappropriate time. However, with proper treatment such as the system below our founder Rich Presta developed you CAN learn to better control your fear response and prevent it from being triggered unnecessarily.
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2. Identify Your Specific Triggers and Root Cause For Your Anxiety and Panic Attacks
The most critical first step an agoraphobic or someone struggling with panic attacks can take is being evaluated by your primary care physician to rule out any physical or medical causes for your symptoms of anxiety. If physical explanations aren’t present, agoraphobia and panic disorder treatment authority Rich Presta recommends next determining what it is specifically that is at the root of your anxiety, what he calls your “core fear”.
Presta, author of the Panic Puzzle Program and our site founder states, “Understanding what is at the core of your agoraphobia is extraordinarily useful in developing a personalized and effective treatment approach and one of the very first things you’ll be asked to do in my self-help program for conquering anxiety, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. What you want to do is examine the varying layers of your anxiety, like peeling an onion, and look at the core fears underneath. For instance, if you have panic attacks when going to the grocery store, it is unlikely that the grocery store is truly what it is you fear. Instead, you may fear being embarrassed or humiliated if people saw you panic or you may fear “getting stuck” in your anxiety and never being “normal” again or being put in a mental institution. Once you know what it is you are ultimately afraid of, it can more easily be treated by allowing us to pinpoint the root cause and not merely a SYMPTOM of the core fear. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what most therapies do and why many less advanced agoraphobia treatments can be so frustrating.”
3. Begin an Effective Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder Treatment
Deciding on a treatment for your agoraphobia or panic disorder is a personal choice, but there are a few commonly chosen possibilities.
Traditional therapy is probably what you first think of when you consider treatment. During traditional talk therapy, the therapist will discuss your fear with you and give you ideas to help you cope with your anxious feelings and bodily sensations you experience when you go through your fear response. They may also focus on your relationships and childhood to help you identify early causes or patterns of thinking that may be contributing to your condition. We recommend seeking out a mental health professional who specializes in treating agoraphobia and anxiety disorders and who has a significant amount of experience in treating the condition. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is frequently found to be an effective modality to use when treating anxiety and panic disorders, so you may choose to find an agoraphobia specialist with a background in this approach. Depending on the severity of your agoraphobia, you may also wish to find a therapist who will begin with phone sessions if traveling to their office would cause you extreme anxiety. You can start your search for a qualified therapist through the phone book, a web based directory or association for therapists, or via a personal recommendation.
You may find that you would benefit from a reputable self-help program that you can use conveniently in the privacy of your own home, at your own speed. High quality self-help programs for agoraphobia and panic disorders can be found online for under $100, a small price to pay for your freedom from your fear and the opportunity to live life without limitations.
Most self-help programs designed for overcoming panic disorders and anxiety disorders will consist of written material, but other more comprehensive programs will also include some audio components you can use as part of your treatment which adds an additional layer of potential benefit and can greatly help you “connect” with the material. You may have several options available to you and should select a program that you feel is optimized for your individual needs and preferred learning method.
The self-help program that we recommend for treating agoraphobia and panic disorder is the Panic Puzzle Program. The author and our site founder, Rich Presta, is widely considered one of the most respected and influential authors on the subject of overcoming agoraphobia and panic attacks anywhere in the world and has developed an incredibly thorough and effective system that can be used by virtually anyone within their own home at a pace they feel comfortable with. His Panic Puzzle Program is one of the most advanced treatment approaches available and earns our highest recommendation for its remarkable results, easy of use, and groundbreaking techniques and therapeutic innovations. The program also includes a iron clad return policy and 100% no questions asked money back guarantee.