Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder where the individual fears being in places or situations from which it may be difficult to escape, such as public transportation, or where help would not be available if one were to have a panic attack. The duration of agoraphobia varies widely, from a few months to a lifetime. Treatment for agoraphobia typically includes exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy.
How long do agoraphobia symptoms last?
A panic attack is a sudden period of intense fear or anxiety that typically lasts for several minutes, approximately 10 to 30 minutes. Symptoms of a panic attack include a pounding heart, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, chest pain, shortness of breath, and feeling like you will pass out.
While most panic attacks only last a few minutes, some people may experience ongoing anxiety and fear that can last for months or even years. Most people can manage their panic disorder and live normal, healthy lives with treatment.
How long does the condition last?
Many people with agoraphobia develop the condition after having a panic attack or another traumatic event. Agoraphobia is a treatable condition. Some people can recover without treatment, but most people need some form of therapy to address their fear of open spaces. Agoraphobia recovery is possible with treatment, but these fears can last a lifetime if left untreated.
How to treat agoraphobia
You may be wondering if agoraphobia is curable. While it can be debilitating, making it difficult to leave the house or even venture outside, treatment options are available.
- Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing the individual to the trigger situation in a safe and controlled setting. With exposure therapy, people with agoraphobia can learn to confront their fears and eventually overcome them.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing the negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to a person’s anxiety. The goal of treatment is to help the person learn how to manage their anxiety disorder and function in everyday life. Treatment usually involves a combination of individual therapy sessions and exposure therapy, which gradually exposes the person to the situations they fear.
- Medications can be used to treat agoraphobia. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are often prescribed to help reduce anxiety and ease panic attacks. Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), can also reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. In addition, beta-blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal), can help to control the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as trembling, rapid heartbeat, and sweating.
- Relaxation techniques help reduce the anxiety and panic often associated with the condition. Some standard relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. With patience and practice, they can be very effective in helping to manage agoraphobia.
- Balaram, K., & Marwaha, R. (2023, February 13). Agoraphobia. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554387/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, June). Table 3.10, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia Criteria Changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5. Nih.gov; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t10/
- Better Health Channel. (2014). Agoraphobia. Vic.gov.au. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/agoraphobia
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M.S. Counseling Psychology