How Does Psychotherapy Help Me Get Over Agoraphobia?
In order to manage the affairs of everyday living a person has to feel relatively safe and in control of his or her actions. With agoraphobia, these feelings of safety and self-control have been compromised to the point where a person’s ability to function and thrive in daily life is severely limited.
Agoraphobia functions as an anxiety-based disorder, meaning it centers around fears that tend to be irrational in nature. According to Mayo Clinic, people affected by agoraphobia have reached a point where perceived fears make it difficult for them to feel safe outside of their home. Unsafe situations may take the form of:
- Being alone
- Feeling as if one may lose control in public or have a panic attack
- Enclosed spaces, such as elevators or buses
- Feeling helpless
Oftentimes, having an initial panic attack sets the stage for agoraphobia to develop, causing a person to try to avoid the situation in which the attack took place. This behavior, in and of itself, only works to feed the fear response and in the process sets off a pattern of maladaptive coping behaviors. These behaviors and the thinking patterns that support them lie at the heart of agoraphobia.
How Psychotherapy Helps
Psychotherapies or talk therapies offer effective approaches for helping you:
- Identify the irrational fears that feed anxiety
- Replace harmful thinking patterns with a healthy mindset towards self and others
- Gradually desensitize you to fear inciting situations
- Learn to manage feelings of anxiety when they arise
One form of psychotherapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy works especially well at helping a person overcome agoraphobia’s effects in his or her daily life. According to Columbia University, cognitive-behavioral therapy addresses both the thinking and behavioral aspect of the condition by helping you understand the underlying issues that feed anxiety and develop the types of healthy coping behaviors that make for a happy, healthy lifestyle.
Exposure therapy offers another effective approach for treating agoraphobia. Exposure therapy works to desensitize a person to a fear-inciting situation by gradually exposing him or her to it in increments. In the process, a person can learn to see the fear for what it is while learning to manage and control his or her stress response.
For some people, the symptoms of fear and anxiety that come with agoraphobia can be so overwhelming that psychotherapy alone isn’t enough. Symptoms may take the form of:
- Having trouble breathing
- Chest pains
- Racing heartbeat
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling like you’re losing control
Under these conditions, symptom severity can make it all but impossible for a person to derive any benefits from psychotherapy. For these reasons, medication therapies using antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs may be necessary to relieve anxiety-based symptoms so a person can benefit from psychotherapy.
If you or someone you know struggles with agoraphobia and have more questions, or need help finding treatment services in your area, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our counselors.