Understanding Agoraphobia


Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes someone to excessively worry about leaving an environment that they consider to be safe (in many cases, their home). Oftentimes, individuals with this type of anxiety are concerned that they won’t have help available to them when necessary, or that they won’t be able to escape a dangerous or embarrassing situation. Someone who has agoraphobia may fear:

  • Being in an enclosed space (e.g., an elevator or a movie theater)
  • Being in an open space (e.g., a bridge or a parking lot)
  • Standing in line
  • Using public transportation
  • Being in a crowd
  • Getting lost
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Fainting
  • Falling down
  • Not being able to access a bathroom when needed

Individuals with agoraphobia often need friends and family members to accompany them to public places, which can make it difficult for them to work, run errands, and socialize. And in severe cases, agoraphobia can prevent someone from leaving their home entirely.

How Is Agoraphobia Treated?

With courage.

Courage is not something you have, it is something you practice. The generic advice is to take medication and attend counseling, where you can identify triggers and learn coping skills. Frankly, I think most of the generic advice out there is bullshit. The way you treat agoraphobia, or any phobia for that matter, is systematically facing the thing you least want to face.

And I will repeat the word systematically… If you go the too-fast-too-much-route you’ll only reinforce your fears and prove to yourself that it would be better to avoid your fear altogether. However, if you slowly approach what you know you need to face, and simultaneously embrace the discomfort associated, you will heal – you will become more resilient to your fears. Regardless if you have a therapist and/or medication.

The truth is, overcoming Agoraphobia will be painful. In fact, it may get worse before it gets better. So having a competent therapist that knows how to guide you in systematically overcoming Agoraphobia is extremely important. That way you don’t turn back to old behaviors, and stay on the healing path. Lastly, yes, identifying triggers and having coping skills can be helpful – they are just not how you heal.

Treating Agoraphobia & Other Anxiety Disorders

Are you willing and ready to embrace the necessary discomfort to heal? Contact us today. We have experience treating numerous types of anxiety—including agoraphobia—and we’ll be happy to tell you about our practice, answer your questions, and schedule your first therapy session.