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Agoraphobia session 7th October 2020

No Panic Sheffield did a session on Agoraphobia written by faciltiator Anna. This was classically regarded as one of the six 'types' of anxiety in the past and regarded as separate to specific phobias e.g. dogs, heights.

Misconceptions about Agoraphobia abound due to it being quoted in the past in many sources such as encylopaedias as fear of 'open spaces'. The Agora in ancient Greece was a kind of square used for various civic functions, so it could be said it was understood what it meant in the ancient world.

Agoraphobia includes a diverse range of fears and can include:-

  • Fear of public transport in many guises from buses or trainrs to airports
  • Fear of being in a crowd
  • Fear of open or closed spaces
  • Fear of queues
  • Fear or being trapped, embarrassed or unable to get help
  • fears of being infected, crime or attacks

This list is not exhaustive and may manifest itself in many other ways, especially if a person has other diagnoses.

Agoraphobia can be with or without panic attacks. There can be extreme avoidance of particular places, especially if a panic attack has happened in a place. Agoraphobia can have similarities and overlaps with other phobias such as Bathmophobia which is fear of slopes. There has been a lot of research done on causes of agoraphobia and it may be related to traumatic events, or a reaction to panic attacks. Research on a link between alcohol and agoraphobia (which way around is unclear) has been done and also on how spatial awareness may play a large part.

Symptoms can include feeling unsafe, worrying about a panic attack, someone may faint, feel dizzy and socially isolate themselves. People with agoraphobia can use safety seeking behaviours such as limiting leaving the house, having deliveries or going places with other people. Unfortunately this can make everyday life difficult. Covid-19 may aggravate feelings for those with agoraphobia and add an extra level.

Treatments for agoraphobia include exposure therapy, relaxation and medication. There was a discussion in the session of what peoples' experiences of agoraphobia were and techniques people use for anxiety.

The DSM-V notes the similarity and overlap between social anxiety, which is much better known, and agoraphobia, with the key differences being the root cause in the situation. If someone stays indoors a lot and has limited social contact, they may also develop social anxiety at the same time as having Agoraphobia.