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Understanding Agoraphobia, Specific Phobias & Panic Disorder

Do you struggle with intense mental & physiological symptoms of anxiety & fear when you encounter or even think about specific situations, activities or things? According to The National Institute of Mental Health, more than 9% of Americans, 19 million people, meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one Phobia, making it the most prevalent mental health diagnosis seen in the US[i].

Overall, Phobias are organized into two major categories:
Specific Phobias & Agoraphobia

Specific Phobias are categorized into 5 Types:

Type                                                     Examples                                              

  • Animal Based –                          a fear of snakes or dogs
  • Natural Environment –              a fear of heights or water
  • Blood/Injection/Injury –          fear of needles
  • Situational Based –                    fear of flying or elevators
  • Other /Non-Specific–                fear of loud noises or fireworks

Agoraphobia is an irrationally intense fear of being trapped in or unable to exit/escape from a situation or environment. Someone who has Agoraphobia often experiences powerful anxiety & fear doing things such as -

  • Leaving the house
  • Driving a car or taking some form of public transportation, such as a bus, train or taxi (due to inability to control vehicle/exit upon demand)
  • Being stuck in traffic, driving on a bridge or on an unfamiliar road or isolated location
  • Walking inside a mall or large store, being in a crowd or place that is unfamiliar & difficult to exit quickly

Despite knowing that one’s thoughts are illogical, the unrelenting physiological symptoms of Agoraphobia can lead people to feel it necessary to distance themselves from the situations, things & people that they associate with their fear. As a result, over time, it becomes increasingly more difficult to face & overcome.

Panic Disorder, aka Panic Attacks, is a severely heightened “attack” in which the body’s “fight-or-flight” system, is activated. When we are feeling threatened in some way, our brain is cued to instantaneously release hormones like adrenaline, creating a cataclysm of physiological sensations so intense, many people resort to calling 911 or present to the emergency room due to the severity of symptoms. This includes:

  • A sudden increase in heart rate & breathing
  • Dizziness, vertigo or feeling as if you may faint
  • Shaking, trembling or feelings of numbness
  • Tightness in chest &/or throat
  • Feeling disconnected from, or outside of, one’s own body (Depersonalization)
  • Fear that symptoms may result in a heart attack or death

According to the most respected sources of mental health information, such as The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), The American Psychological Association[ii] (APA) & The Anxiety & Depression Association of America[iii] (ADAA), the most effective treatment for Panic Disorder, Specific Phobias & Agoraphobia, is the use of Cognitive Behavioral & Exposure-Based Therapy.[iv]

If you, or someone you care about, is struggling with any of the issues listed above, please feel free to call, email, or use the convenient “Contact Me” link located on every page to reach out to me. I speak with all potential clients on the telephone before the initial appointment, to ensure we are the right fit for one another. I look forward to the opportunity to help you begin to Live Your Life Fearlessly!

[i] https://www.nimh.nih.gov
[ii] https://www.apa.org (American Psychological Association
[iii] https://www.adaa.org (Anxiety & Depression Association of America