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Agoraphobia is a form of anxiety disorder. Sufferers of agoraphobia fear crowded situations, where their anxiety may escalate into panic attacks. In avoiding the situations in which the fear occurs sufferers are often confined to their homes and face difficulty traveling too far away from the safety they feel it provides.
The word is an English adoption of the Greek words agora (αγορά) and phobos (φόβος). Literally translated in modern Greek as "a fear of the marketplace". A common misconception is that agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces. This is most often not the case since people suffering from agoraphobia usually are not afraid of the open spaces themselves, but of public spaces or of situations often associated with these spaces. The Greek word agora should be interpreted using the Ancient Greek meaning of the word agora (αγορά) which translates as "where the people gather" (later "forum" in Latin), which gives the idea of a crowded marketplace rather than just an open space -- this makes the common combination of agoraphobia and claustrophobia less conflicting.
Agoraphobia today describes severe and pervasive anxiety about being in situations from which escape might be difficult or avoidance of situations such as being alone outside of the home; traveling in a car, bus, or airplane; or being in a crowded area (DSM-IV). Some people with agoraphobia are comfortable seeing visitors, but only in a defined space where they feel in control. Such people may live for years without leaving their homes, while happily seeing visitors and working, as long as they can stay within their safety zones.
An agoraphobic may experience severe panic attacks in situations where they feels trapped, insecure, out of control, or too far from their personal comfort zone. The panic attacks are usually short lived, usually lasting less than half an hour and can be accompanied by somatic symptoms such as hyperventilation and palpitations. As a consequence of wanting to avoid such severe bouts of anxiety, the agoraphobic may be confined not only to the home, but to one or two rooms and he may even become bed-bound.
Agoraphobics may be sensitized to their own bodily sensations, and being hypervigilant over-react to perfectly normal events. To take one example, the exertion involved in climbing a flight of stairs in the shopping mall may be the cause for a full-blown panic attack, because it increases the heartbeat and breathing rate, which the agoraphobic interprets as the start of a panic attack instead of a normal fluctuation. They may have a set of cognitive beliefs about the implications of the panic; they may believe it indicates a heart attack, or that they will be embarassed because they will faint, and this can add to the anxiety and panic creating a vicious circle of anticipation, fear and anxiety which can overwhelm their ability to cope.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - History of the disorder.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Theoretical approaches.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Epidemiology.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Risk factors.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Etiology.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Assessment.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Comorbidity.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Treatment.
- Main article: Agoraphobia - Prognosis.
- Main article: Agoraphobia:Service user page.
- Main article: Agoraphobia:Carer page.
References & BibliographyEdit
Materials for this topic are obtained from the public domain source:
- David Satcher etal. (1999). "Chapter 4.2" Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.
Agoraphobia: Academic support materials
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- Agoraphobia: Other academic support materials
Agoraphobia: For the practitioner
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